Pupils stranded by 'petrol hike'

Alfred Moselakgomo

Alfred Moselakgomo

More than 1000 pupils in Mpumalanga were stranded when the drivers of the buses supposed to transport them to school refused to pick them up 'until the provincial government increased their fares'.

The drivers of buses that transport an estimated 1 500 primary and high school pupils said they would not provide the service until the provincial government increased their fares.

The drivers demand that the current 20c a kilometre per pupil be increased to R1 per pupil. The drivers cited the recent steep increase in the price of petrol as the reason for demanding the fare hike.

The department has acknowledged that the complaints were legitimate, but condemned the the drivers for leaving the pupils stranded.

"We had a meeting with the service providers and the matter will be resolved soon," said Hlahla Ngwenya, education department spokesman in the province.

This is not the first time that school bus drivers have refused to transport pupils in the area. As on the previous occasion, money was the bone of contention.

In July last year the department stopped the transportation of pupils in the area saying the service providers were using unauthorised letters to extend their contracts.

Pupils were forced to stay at home while some hiked to and from school for two months. A departmental forensic investigation found that it was expensive transporting pupils because some service providers used unauthorised letters to extend their contracts.

In other cases no authority had been given to them to continue with their contracts.

In other instances it was discovered that some bus operators and government officials had actually colluded to defraud the department of education by inflating the number of pupils transported.

The investigation had found that the cost of transporting the pupils had, therefore, increased from R10million in 2001 to about R143million last year.