4 June 2020

While the recently published draft learner transport policy published by the KwaZulu Natal Department of Education now makes provisions for learners with disabilities, it leaves out the crucial aspects of universal design and fails to make provision for learners at mainstream schools.

On 1 June 2020, SECTION27 submitted comments on the KZN Draft Learner Transport Policy: 2020.

The publication of this policy by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education (KZN DoE) came in response to sustained litigation and advocacy beginning as far back as 2017.

In November 2017, Equal Education represented by the Equal Education Law Centre secured a Court order by consent, in terms of which the KZN DoE was required to produce a policy for the provision of transport to schools for learners across KwaZulu-Natal.

SECTION27 represented disability rights organisation Siphilisa Isizwe, who intervened as amicus curiae in the litigation. The intention of the intervention was to ensure that the transport needs for learners with disabilities were fully heard in the court case, and taken into account by the Court in its remedies.

After multiple missed deadlines, the KZN DoE finally published the Draft Policy on 16 April 2020.

Siphilisa Isizwe and SECTION27’s intervention in the case has ensured the Draft Policy makes key commitments in respect of providing transport for learners with disabilities.

The Draft Policy notes that

  • all processes involved from planning to implementation must take cognisance of the needs of learners with disabilities; and that
  • in the implementation of the scholar transport programme, priority will be given to, amongst others, learners with disabilities.

Whilst this was an important victory, the Draft Policy nevertheless lacks in some key respects necessary to ensure that learner transport in KwaZulu-Natal is adequately inclusive to learners with disabilities. Crucially:

  • the Draft Policy does not make provision for, or even mention of, the principles of universal design and accessibility in mainstream learner transport facilities.
  • The Draft Policy does not make provision for the use of mainstream transport facilities for learners with disabilities attending mainstream schools.
  • The general structure of the Draft Policy runs counter to the requirement for inclusive education. It explicitly divides the provision of transport into two completely separate categories – transport for learners at ordinary public schools for which KZN DoT is largely responsible, and transport for learners at special schools, for which KZN DoE is largely responsible. This may perpetuate the barrier faced by learners with disabilities who are, in all other respects, able to attend mainstream schools.
  • The Draft Policy provides that a learner who travels a minimum distance of 3 kilometres to the nearest appropriate school will qualify for learner transport. However, for learners with disabilities this may need to be relaxed, depending on individual factors such as limitation in mobility, safety, and socio-economic circumstance of the learner.

Details are contained in our submissions to the KZN DoE attached here

For more information contact: Nontsikelelo Mpulo on 082 782 7143 or mpulo@section27.org.za