Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: GCIS
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Picture: GCIS

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said she would consider putting in place a system of grants to ring-fence funds intended for scholar transport following a spate of horrific accidents involving pupils.

Motshekga met the Council of Education Ministers last week after a rise in deadly accidents reignited debate about the state of scholar transport, including the deaths of 20 pupils in April when a minibus taxi transporting them was involved in an accident.

The council is a formal forum at which the provincial basic education MECs hold discussions with the minister.

"The department is open to looking at a case for the ring-fencing of the learner transport budget in the form of a conditional grant to ensure that the budget is spent in the area it is intended for," Motshekga said.

"The relevant engagement will be undertaken with the National Treasury to see if this is a possibility."

Equal Education lobbied the department for three years about the issue. It highlighted the plight of pupils in KwaZulu-Natal which is one of the areas worst affected by dysfunctional scholar transport.

Equal Education’s Luyolo Mazwembe said a scholar transport grant was important to "stop provinces spending the money on other things".

A national scholar transport policy was introduced in 2015. But in 2016-17 the Department of Basic Education underspent its scholar transport budget by more than R600m.

According to statistics from the department, 556,294 pupils will be in need of scholar transport in 2017-18 and the government has set itself the target of transporting 459,580 of those pupil. It plans to spend R3bn on this.

The department’s overall budget for 2017- 18 increased by R1.1bn to R23,4bn.

In 2017-18 budget more than R20bn in conditional grants have been allocated to five programmes under the department including: school feeding, HIV/AIDS in schools, infrastructure, pupils with profound disabilities and the maths, science and technology programmes.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation estimates that in 2015 road accidents cost the economy R143bn, or about 3,4% of gross domestic product.

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