Scholar transport operators’ hands tied as services are brought a halt

This was the word from the South African National Small Bus Operator’s Council, that said it represented most learner transport services contracted by the Western Cape Education Department.

Parents in the Overberg town of Botrivier on 6 October 2020 protested following the suspension of a scholar transport service by the Western Cape Education Department. Picture: Lauren Isaacs/EWN

CAPE TOWN – Scholar transport operators on Wednesday said they had no choice but to cancel their services.

This was the word from the South African National Small Bus Operator’s Council, that said it represented most learner transport services contracted by the Western Cape Education Department.

This came as parents of primary and high school learners from the Overberg town of Grabouw voiced their dissatisfaction after scholar transport was cancelled.

The South African National Small Bus Operators Council in the Western Cape said its members were small business owners who were dealt a major financial blow when no income was generated during the COVID-19 lockdown.

The group said the reopening of schools brought minimal relief and that operators were barely breaking even, because of reduced learner numbers, loading restrictions and the additional cost of sanitising.

Members said they continuously informed the provincial education department their services were not financially viable because their pay was based on the number of learners transported.

Due to low attendance numbers and the rotation of learners, contractors said they were receiving barely a third of their normal income.

The council said because fewer vehicles were required to transport the reduced number of learners, contractors had busses which were stationed but which could not be used for other work because they were contractually bound to operate on a certain route.

The council has also highlighted grievances regarding so called biased procurement tender processes.

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