More pupils stay away from school in Limpopo

Alex Matlala and Sne Masuku

The squabble between emerging transport and food companies and the Limpopo department of education has contributed to the increase in the rate of absenteeism in primary schools in the province.

Sources said absenteeism had allegedly doubled compared with this time last year.

The crisis is linked to a demand for increased fees by bus and food companies who allegedly cite continuous price hikes.

The department of education has allegedly threatened to replace all 16 companies involved.

Some principals in the province yesterday expressed their frustration.

The hardest-hit schools are in the Mopani, Waterburg and Capricorn districts.

A total of 16 circuits were initially affected, but the department had subsequently appointed other companies to supply the food parcels.

A principal at one of the schools in Thabina, near Shiluvane, yesterday said her school had an enrolment of 965 pupils.

She said the number reporting for school had gone down to about 600.

Some suppliers claim that the recent petrol price increase affected their take home cash.

Education spokesman Ndo Mangala said his department would replace the 16 companies with new suppliers.

"We will not adjust the budget because that was never part of their contract," Mangala said.

Meanwhile, KwaZuluNatal education spokesman Ntokozo Maphisa said there had been no irregularities in the running of the feeding scheme in the province.