A mother carried her daughter to school until she became too heavy for her to do so. Another learner must drive her electric wheelchair some five kilometres when she cannot afford to pay for private transport. These are some of the cases that SECTION27 uncovered in an investigation into transport issues faced by learners with disabilities.

Learners with disabilities have a constitutional right to school transport, and failure to provide it is discriminatory. It means children with disabilities are often not able to access their right to education because they simply cannot get to school. This is just one of the arguments that SECTION27 will make when it represents Siphilisa Isizwe, a disabled people’s organisation, in a case to be heard at the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday, 7 November 2017.

Siphilisa Isizwe will join Equal Education’s bid to force the Departments of Basic Education and Transport in KwaZulu-Natal to provide transport for learners in 12 schools in the Nqutu area. The organisation was admitted as a friend of the court (amicus curiae) on 26 August 2017 and it aims to present a case for the transport needs of learners with disabilities in KwaZulu-Natal to be included in the province’s plans for scholar transport.

The Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal does not have a plan for scholar transport. The current provincial policy is inadequate because it does not cater for learners with disabilities. This is in conflict with the rights to basic education and to equality, international law, White Paper 6 on Basic Education and the National Learner Transport Policy.

SECTION27 will present evidence gathered in the Umkhanyakude District which illustrates that learners’ rights are being violated through the failure to provide scholar transport.  It will argue that based on this, there is a need for the departments to develop a plan to provide learners with adequate and appropriate transport in this province. The plan must take into account the variety of needs of learners with disabilities. Some learners require quarterly long-distance transport, others require daily short-distance transport, and others require wheelchair ramps or door-to-door drop-offs or even special seating.

SECTION27 will argue that the right to basic education is, unlike many other socio-e conomic rights, not subject to the availability of resources. This means that the departments cannot simply claim that they do not have the funds to provide scholar transport, which forms part of the right to basic education.

A judgment in favour of Equal Education, and in turn Siphilisa Isizwe, will allow advocacy groups to put pressure on other provincial departments to provide scholar transport for all learners including learners with disabilities.

For more information contact: Ntsiki Mpulo 082 782 7143 mpulo@section27.org.za

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