The KwaZulu-Natal Education department has been ordered by the High Court in Pietermaritzburg to provide transport for learners in the Nquthu area where some learners have to walk almost 2 hours to get to school.
Travelling long distances to school, navigating dangerous alleyways, rivers and other challenges will be an experience buried in the past for Nquthu learners, in northern KwaZulu-Natal. This follows the ruling by the Pietermaritzburg High Court which ordered that the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education must provide transport to learners by April next year.
This ruling follows a court application brought by advocacy group Equal Education for the Department to roll out learner transport in rural Nquthu where scores of learners face dangers each day when going to school because of a lack of transport.
And on an uncharacteristically cold Tuesday morning in Pietermaritzburg, some of the affected learners braved the chill barefooted, waving placards outside the court in demonstrating the hardships they face each day when going to school.
Ntokozo Ntuli, 13 said it was difficult for him to concentrate at school as he walks a long distance in order to attend classes. “I am forced to leave at 5:30 in order to make the 7:40 bell that signals the beginning of classes,” said the Grade 8 learner at Bongumenzi Secondary School in Nquthu.
His story of sometimes arriving late for classes was echoed by another learner, Thembeka Dlame, from Hlubi Secondary School.
As an 18-year-old girl getting an education is a bit dangerous, especially when walking by herself. “We had a situation in our neighbourhood where girls were being abducted, and the only way in which one is able to limit the risk is by walking in groups. But even that does not mean that one is totally safe,” said the Grade 10 learner. She added that while not completely safe, even the provision of vans would help in dealing with the situation.
Coming to court on Tuesday was a culmination of numerous marches that have been staged by the learners since 2014.
Equal Education’s Mila Kakaza expressed joy following the court ruling.
“Today, Tuesday 7 November, Equal Education (EE), represented by the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), enjoyed a momentous victory in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, in securing scholar transport for learners in 12 schools in Nquthu in Northern KZN,” said Kakaza.
She added that following the court ruling learners qualifying for scholar transport in the 12 Nquthu schools will have more time for teaching and learning in the classroom, for homework, and for rest. “It means freedom from the burden of walking long, exhausting and dangerous routes to and from school every morning and afternoon.”
The Department said it was too early to give a comprehensive response on the matter. “We note the judgement handed by Pietermaritzburg High Court. We are going to study it and we remain committed to provide learner transport to deserving learners,” said spokesperson, Kwazi Mthethwa.