CRASH puts off exams

A BUS crash has left 69 pupils injured, resulting in education officials having to postpone their Grade 9 and 10 examinations indefinitely.

The pupils involved in the smash were from Moiketsi Senior Secondary School in Mount Fletcher, Eastern Cape.

Three pupils were critically injured and were admitted to the Tayler Bequest Hospital in Matatiele.

The accident happened on Tuesday when the bus transporting pupils home veered off the road, hit an embarkment and rolled over.

The Eastern Cape transport department said they were investigating allegations that the bus driver had been drunk and that the vehicle was unlicensed.

Eastern Cape education department spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said an official investigation has been launched by the department.

"We have to make sure that school transport is safe," he said.

"But, yes, there will be people with defective vehicles who will take chances.

"We have established a forum that includes the school governing bodies, school bus drivers and the transport department to look into safe transport for pupils. We will look into the present case as well.

"This is a wake-up call to other bus companies to ensure that their transport is in good condition."

Mtima said they could not give a date for when the examinations would restart.

"We have asked that the pupils be given the opportunity to recover emotionally," he said.

Teachers at the school are up in arms and are calling on the department to put the brakes on awarding transportation tenders to the Kopanang Bus Company, which was involved in the accident.

"Their buses are in a poor condition," said a teacher who declined to be named.

"We have made several complaints to the department to end the contract because the buses are coffins on wheels."

School principal Patrick Thabana also said the provincial government should look at dealing with the bus company.

"We want a better service," he said.

More than 80 people have died in Eastern Cape road accidents since September.

Transport department spokesperson Tshepo Machaea said: "We are investigating the allegations (that the driver was drunk) but one problem we have is that the driver was not arrested and was not tested for alcohol."

The bus company owner Makhotlhele Kokoqama denied the allegations that her vehicle was unroadworthy.

"People can say what they like. It's lies that my bus was unroadworthy and yes, the driver might have been under the influence of liquor, but he has a driver's licence."