Workers’ and students’ unions demand transport for farm children

The Congress of South African Students and the Food and Allied Workers’ Union in North West have called on the government to ensure that children living in farming areas are provided with better services.

Both the Congress of South African Students (Cosas) and the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) in North West have called on the government to ensure that children living in farming areas are provided with better services, especially transport to school.

Cosas provincial secretary Molefi Kgang said it had embarked on a back-to-school campaign that aimed to ensure that all children reported to school in January. Kgang said people living on farms had been affected by lack of service delivery far more severely than those in urban areas, and many children were not attending school.

“As Cosas, we would like to make sure that these issues are addressed,” he said. Fawu provincial secretary, Tseleng Tau, said that children on farms deserved the same quality of education that all other children enjoyed.

“In fact, knowing the situation on South African farms, these poor children need special attention in terms of proper education and learning facilities,” he added.

Tau said that in rural areas one could often see children sitting and waiting for transport to take them to school at 9am or even 10am. He also demanded to know why farm schools were shutting down and children were being forced to travel to township schools.

He said that the situation was deepening the illiteracy crisis among the poor on farms. It was also encouraging child labour, as many children who stayed at home ended up accompanying their parents to work so they could earn pocket money. Gideon Morule, acting president of the North West branch of the African Farmers’ Association of South Africa, maintained that the problem in his area, Ramatlabama, was even worse.

Due to lack of public transport, electricity, schools and clinics, many farm workers had arranged for their children to live with relatives in cities or townships. Elize van der Westhuizen of Agri SA’s labour and social policy committee said that the lack of transport was of great concern as many children were frequently left stranded and unsafe on the side of the roads.

According to her, Agri SA had met with the Department of Basic Education to discuss the problem. Evidently, the department had contracted private companies in many rural areas to render transport services for schoolgoing children, but these agreements had often fallen apart.

There had been two reasons for this, said Van der Westhuizen. “In some cases it is the department that did not pay the service provider, and in other cases it is the service provider charging the commuters a fee, although they were already being paid by the department,” she said. – Peter Mashala