ALL 56000 pupils who depend on pupil transport in Mpumalanga have been left stranded.
Service providers responsible for ferrying the pupils, mainly to far-flung rural areas, have stopped transporting them because the department had not paid them.
The Southern African Bus Operators Association has vowed not to transport the pupils until they are paid.
The provincial education department said it was equally concerned and was eager to resolve the issue.
Saboa executive manager Eric Cornelius told Sowetan yesterday that they had stopped transporting pupils when schools reopened on Monday because the education department had failed to fulfill its promises.
"The department had promised, among other things, to accelerate payment of outstanding money to service providers and to employ our members full-time. We are only given three months' contracts. Giving our members short-term contracts is not good. Also, we do not get paid on time most of the time.
"We had several meetings with the department and it promised to address these issues, but to date nothing has been done."
Jasper Zwane, education spokesperson, said they did not understand the reasons that have led to this unfortunate development.
"We met the service providers early this month and were under the impression that all the issues were explained and that there was a collective comprehension of the process that would be followed. We are shocked that they have abandoned the children," he said.
Zwane said in a bid to ensure that there was harmony between stakeholders, management of scholar transport has been moved from education to the department of public works, roads and transport.
He said his department was prepared to engage the service providers on issues they allege to be outstanding.
Since its inception the pupil transport programme has experienced difficulties. It has also faced allegations that ranged from overloading to un-roadworthy vehicles, discrepancies on the number of pupils, route distances and a lack of oversight to the late arrival of pupils at schools.