A contentious item in the Ndlambe council agenda last week was about R252,000 that the recess committee had resolved the municipality pay towards transporting former Port Alfred Primêre pupils to Mary Waters School in Makhanda.
Parents of the pupils had been in a quandary as their children had passed the highest grade available at Port Alfred Primêre and there was no space for them in local schools, or there was a problem with the medium of instruction at Nomzamo High School in Nemato, where former Port Alfred Primêre pupils had previously been accommodated.
The parents presented their appeal to the mayor as they said they could not afford the transport to take their children to Makhanda. The recess committee also learned that the department of transport did not accommodate such a need in the first three months of the year for new pupils, as its budget starts in April.
ANC councillor Stwiga Njibana said he supported the resolution to provide R252,000 for transport, and it should be extended to pupils in a similar quandary in Southwell and Alexandria.
“It may be said it’s not our competency, it’s the department’s, but we should help because education is the only thing that will lift our black children out of poverty,” he said.
DA caucus leader and finance portfolio councillor Ray Schenk said he was sympathetic, “but this is a department of education and department of transport competency. This was a special dispensation when people came to see the mayor, but we can’t afford the cost of transporting every child. Let’s rather interact politically and administratively with the departments to get transport for these kids.”
Speaker Vivian Maphaphu opened the matter to discussion and ANC chief whip Andile Marasi said he supported extending the transport support as education is a primary issue.
Schenk responded: “The core function of the municipality is to deliver service – basic services. If we have to provide transport we’ll be taking money away from service delivery. It is not our core function to transport people. It shows caring of the municipality to help, but I was afraid it would become a precedent.”
Mayor Phindile Faxi said he appreciated what Schenk was saying and appealed to him for them to meet and “go back to the drawing board to look at numbers”.