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More schools in NC to close

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Low attendance figures at these schools

SEVEN schools in the Northern Cape will close their doors during the 2017/18 financial year as a result of low attendance figures.

Spokesperson for the provincial Department of Education, Geoffrey van der Merwe, said that the affected schools were mainly in the John Taolo Gaetsewe district.

“A thorough consultation process will unfold that will include the gazetting and public hearings. All due processes will be finalised by the end of October in terms of the management plan,” said Van der Merwe.

He stated that these schools were no longer viable due to the dwindling number of pupils.

“The process to merge and or close schools was a process that started in 2011. Thus far we have successfully closed 30 schools, which proved to have a positive impact on the education system. We can confirm that no pupil or teacher was negatively affected by this process and pupils who qualify for pupil transport are transported to their nearest school.”

Van der Merwe added that they were in the process of migrating the function of pupil transport back to the Department of Education by April 1, 2018.

“Pupil transport is currently a shared function between the Northern Cape Department of Education and the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison. Our responsibility is to provide the number of pupils that qualify, according to the criteria for pupil transport.

“We are busy engaging the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison to discuss the migration of this function back to the Department of Education.”

The imminent closure of schools in the Province has resulted in the department not requesting additional funding for pupil transport from national Treasury.

Spokesperson for the Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison, Keitumetse Moticoe, stated that their available budget catered for the transport of over 22 000 pupils in the Province.

“Funding avenues are still being pursued to accommodate more pupils to benefit from the service as indicated through consultative processes with the Department of Education.

“The department has sought funding through the provincial Treasury during the Provincial Medium Term Expenditure Committee (PMTEC) process, to assist us with financial shortfalls.”

She added that while their submissions to the PMTEC for funding and oversight bodies had not reaped much success, the department would continue to seek avenues to address the shortfall for pupils still needing to benefit from the service.

The Minister for Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, in reply to a written parliamentary question, indicated that R639 million was needed to cover the shortfall to fund school transport across the country from the 2017/18 transport budget.

Any shortfalls will have to be sourced from the provincial budgets.

Motshekga added that the demand for pupil transport was expected to decrease between the 2016/17 and 2017/18, largely due to rationalisation, mergers and closures of some schools as well as the verification of pupils who qualify to benefit from the service.

She said that the Northern Cape was one of six provinces – along with the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West – that had not requested additional funding to transport schoolchildren.

“Discussions are under way within the provincial departments to seek mechanisms to address the shortages from their respective provincial budgets,” Motshekga said.

During a presentation to portfolio committee in May, the Department of Basic Education reported that a total of 556 294 pupils needed transport, although only 459 5989 could be provided for in the current financial year.

Motshekga, however, recently indicated that a total of 465 977 pupils were utilising school transport, at a cost of R2.3 billion, as at April, which was funded from the provincial equitable share.

She indicated that priority would be given to primary school pupils who walked long distances to school.

“Existing pupil transport services must be taken into account when identifying beneficiaries. No pupil transport services will be provided in areas where public transport is available,” she added.