Cape Town – A group of pupils from three Wellington high schools and parents led by Women on Farms Project protested outside the Education Department offices on Monday over the lack of transport for learners living on farms.
The group demanded the immediate provision of sufficient and safe buses for all learners living on farms, especially for those living on Hermon Road in Wellington.
They asked for the provision of adequate bus shelters and the amendment of the 5km transport policy for rural youth. They wanted a calculation of the distance to start at the learner’s house and not from the farm gate to school.
Charleen Arendse from Women on Farms said: “Children living on farms experience a range of educational problems due to their location, socio-economic conditions and lack of access to opportunities.”
Arendse said research in 2018 and 2019 on the transport challenges of learners living along the Hermon and Oakdene routes and attending Bergrivier, Weltevrede and Wellington High schools, produced similar findings to that of research in 2015.
“Learners from farms often miss school when it rains heavily; their books get wet. They use longer routes to avoid being mugged or assaulted by gangsters and are often forced to hitch-hike, which is dangerous.
“Since the Covid-19 lockdown, the trains have not been operating they are unable to attend extra classes, extra-mural and sports activities after school. This has led to a number of learners dropping out of school.
Hermon farm youth activist Celeste Appollis said the Education Department’s allocation of two buses on the Harmony and Oakdene roads faced problems related to the Hermon route and excluded 34 learners, including those not on the “bus list”.
She said school principals told those learners they had to move into a hostel at Bergrivier High School.
Education MEC Debbie Schäfer’s spokesperson Kerry Mauchline said the district office had engaged with the Women on Farms project on Friday to inform them that the additional learners had been approved for learner transport to begin on November 2.
All learners who had to walk over 5km to school are eligible to apply for learner transport.