Government's transport program boosts access to education

Published Jun 20, 2024


By Christopher Buda

In a groundbreaking initiative aimed at easing mobility challenges for learners, the South African government has invested heavily in the National Learner Transport Programme, demonstrating its commitment to improving access to education for underprivileged and rural students.

This programme, part of a broader R69 billion investment in public transport infrastructure and operations, has been pivotal in addressing transport challenges and enhancing academic performance among schoolchildren.

On February 10, Minister of Transport, Sindisiwe Chikunga handed over 300 Shova-Kalula bicycles to seven schools in the Dumbe Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal.

This event marked a significant milestone in the Shova-Kalula Bicycle Programme, a Department of Transport (DOT) initiative designed to aid learners who walk between 3km to 5km to school.

Among the beneficiaries was Bilanyoni Primary School, underscoring the programme's reach and impact.

Chikunga emphasised the programme's importance in her address.

"We teach them on issues related to road safety and their security. For instance, we advise that they should ride their bicycles in groups rather than individually, because then, the criminals may pounce on those learners."

This focus on safety is a crucial component of the programme, ensuring that students can travel securely to and from school.

The National Learner Transport Programme operates in 4,204 schools nationwide, providing a fully funded and free service to learners, supported by a budget allocation of R4.7 billion.

The Shova-Kalula Bicycle Programme, part of the broader initiative, has distributed 122,307 bicycles to learners since its inception in 2001.

Under the current administration, 32,307 bicycles have been distributed nationally, targeting underprivileged and rural learners.

The programme not only facilitates access to education, but also aims to improve school attendance and academic performance.

Chikunga noted: "By providing reliable and safe transport, we are ensuring that learners spend more time in classrooms and less time commuting. This has a direct positive impact on their academic outcomes."

During her visit to Bilanyoni Primary School, Chikunga also hosted a cycling safety education session and a career exhibition for the learners.

The event allowed local residents to interact with government officials, illustrating the government's commitment to community engagement and feedback.

Additionally, Chikunga participated in repairing potholes on Tholakele Road (P271), improving the surface for students riding bicycles, aimed at enhancing road infrastructure and improving travel conditions.

Parents and students have praised the initiative for its beneficial effects.

The Shova Kalula programme recently arrived in Benoni, Ekurhuleni, benefiting Umnyezane Primary School in Putfontein.

Maria, whose child benefited from the programme, shared her enthusiasm for its impact.

"My child is thrilled with the new bicycle provided through the Shova Kalula programme. It has made such a difference in their daily commute to school, ensuring they arrive on time and without the strain of carrying a heavy school bag.

“This initiative has truly improved their school experience."

Chikunga highlighted the broader vision of the programme.

"The Shova-Kalula Bicycle Project aims to address transport challenges in under-served communities by facilitating access and mobility to socio-economic opportunities.

“For this project to be more effective, it requires the collaboration and cooperation of all the role-players and stakeholders," said Chikunga.