Transport delay keeping Boknes pupils out of school

Parents struggle for years as children have to hitch lifts to Klipfontein

LEFT HELPLESS: Parents from Boknes Farm trying to hitch a lift for their children to Klipfontein Primary School. They are among a group of eight children in that community for whom there is still no official scholar transport. Picture: SUPPLIED

While the departments of education and transport are still struggling to iron out problems in scholar transport, a couple of weeks after the start of the new school year, a group of Klipfontein Primary School learners have barely seen the inside of a classroom.

It’s 10km from home to school for the eight children, who range in age from seven to 15, and there’s no official scholar transport for them.

Worse, there are children who started at the school. 

As early as 6am, the children wait on the side of the road with their parents, who try to hitch a lift for them from Boknes Farm to Bushmans River Mouth. Sadly, most days they miss school because their parents rely on government grants and cannot afford to pay for private transport. 

When Talk of The Town contacted the principal of the school, Andre Van Rensburg, for comment, he said the matter was being handled by the department, and declined to comment further. 

Thulani Nelani, who has three children at the school, said they had been applying for scholar transport since 2018; however, he said their application was only approved towards the end of last year. There has been a lot of back and forth since then.

“We’ve been filling in these transport applications since 2018. Then, this year, the principal gave us a piece of paper that confirms that our application has been approved.

“But now he’s saying it’s still pending. We don’t understand how our kids cannot go to school while neighbouring schools’ service providers have been appointed already. What is delaying ours? We live off government grants and cannot afford to pay the R500 to R600 charged by private transport providers,” he said.

Patricia Jacobs has two children at Klipfontein Primary.

“When I enrolled my first child for Grade R with the school in 2016, I applied for scholar transport and she is still waiting even now in Grade 7. Then again in 2019, I enrolled my second child with the school and we are still waiting. In that same year, we resorted to arranging transportation with a local driver. The school promised us that our kids would have government scholar transport but since then, nothing has happened and we are still waiting on those empty promises,” she said. 

“We keep approaching the school for assistance because we cannot pay for private transport providers. We are unemployed and do not have R500 to pay for private transport and the school doesn’t seem to understand our frustration. Kids cannot walk this distance, it is too far,” said Jacobs. 

Jacobs said they were advised by the school principal to allow their kids to stay with family members close to the school. At first, she did that, but she was then called in about her child’s poor performance. “I followed his advice then he is the same person who called me to his office complaining that my child is not eating and her homework is never done. He even threatened to take me to social workers if I don’t address the situation,” she said. 

Joyce Jacobs, enrolled her child at the school in Grade R in 2019. That’s when she first applied for scholar transport, and she has applied every year since. She says she’s tired of fighting that battle. She said: “I am so tired of fighting with Klipfontein. My child has been at Klipfontein since 2019 in Grade R.

“I’ve been applying for scholar transport since 2019, but no transport is provided,” said Jacobs.

“Every time the school promises transport will be provided. My child was in school almost the whole year without transport. He could not write exams because we could not afford taxi fare.”

Jacobs was also advised to have her child stay with family members close to the school, but she refused to do this. 

“I can’t let my child stay with other people, it’s difficult for the children. They won’t get the same love and care they get at home from their own parents.,” she said. 

Her son has to start hitch-hiking at 6am to get to school on time. Sometimes the children get lifts in open-canopy bakkies. “ Klipfontein must help us. We live on a farm and things are difficult, but we want our children to have an education,” she said.

The parents said they felt the school wasn’t doing enough to get the department to assist them. 

Last month, the parents said, they were informed by the principal that the department had approved their scholar transport application, but the school was still waiting for the appointment of a service provider to transport the children. 

TOTT has seen the list with eight learners from Klipfontein Primary School for the approved Boknes & Cannon Rocks route. However, the department of transport is only aware of two learners from the area who will be accommodated. “In terms of the 2022 Database there were only two learners for Boknes & Cannon Rocks. Even on the 2023 database there were only two learners for Boknes pickup point. [The] indication is they will be transported by operators that will be contracted for the next tender,” said Eastern Cape Department of Transport spokesperson, Unathi Bhinqose. 

Bhinqose said the department is addressing the problem they are facing across the province with scholar transport. “We are working really closely with our colleagues at the department of education to get to the bottom of this to ensure that the learners that are in need of scholar transport do get what is required because we understand the importance of scholar transport in changing the lives of many children who are in desperate need of education to change their lives and that of their families. It is for that reason that we want to ensure that when the new contract comes, the two learners are adequately accommodated. Plans are afoot to ensure that for now, we talk to those service providers that are already there to see if they can’t accommodate them as well,” he said.