The process of accessing education is still grim in some parts of the Free State. At Arran Primary School outside Bethlehem more than a hundred learners are forced to travel six kilometers to school.
The situation is so bad that three learners have been killed in road accidents in the last three years when they crossed the road unsupervised.
One of the parents who spoke to the SABC says her 15-year-old daughter is yet to recover from the trauma of rape.
“They walk a long distance and it’s a problem. We live under faith. No one helps us. I struggle to buy school clothes and even to pay their school fees. Their father passed away. There’s no food. When I have to eat I first have to go ask people around. My child was going to school and got raped and they said they want to kill her.”
The school had 195 learners of which 173 have dropped out. This is because of their financial background and the challenge of the long distance.
Principal of the school Lebane Masooa says attempts to engage with the local Department of Education officials were futile.
“I’ve heard from my colleagues that three years back three learners were hit by cars at a national road. Last year, one of the learners was raped on the way to school. They say the policy caters learners from the farms to the townships not from townships to farms. Another measure we tried to take is to go to the Traffic Department for assistance. The response that I got was that it was a provincial matter.”
Democratic Alliance member of Parliament Nomsa Marchesi says the situation is demoralising. She says she will take the matter to Parliament.
“The disturbing factor is that not only these learners walk to school, but they actually didn’t have food. One of our concerns is the fact that learners are in danger of being raped, killed because they pass two national roads for them to come to school and it’s not supposed to be like that.”
The Free State Department of Education says since 2015 the responsibility for learner transport was transferred to the Department of Transport.
Spokesperson Howard Ndaba says about 10 000 learners are being transported across the province. He, however, says the policy does not accommodate everyone.
“The criteria is simple; we are transporting learners, rural learners from farms who are travelling five kilometres and above and in this case, learners are staying in the township of Bohlokong and they are attending school in the farm. So they fall outside that policy. However as a department from next year we will be building a school in a place called Volgefantein.”