Dilemmas in learner transport : an impact evaluation of a school transport intervention in the Ilembe District, KwaZulu-Natal.
The journey to school for a significant number of South African learners is characterised by long travel times, unsafe modes of travel and exposure to weather and traffic related dangers. A review of the literature suggests that poor access to schools impedes both the accumulation of human capital and the right to a basic education. This research, conducted in a peri-urban municipal district near Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, is an impact evaluation of an existing school transport intervention. The intervention consists of an arrangement between a school in the llembe District and several locally managed transport providers. The intervention has two parts: first, school officials have negotiated a reduced taxi fare for learners travelling to and from the school and, second, the school has arranged for the local bus company to synchronise its schedule with the start and finish of school each day. The overall objective of the intervention is to reduce the travel times and walking distances of the learners attending the school. The approach of the study is to employ an appropriate evaluation methodology to assess the intervention and to interpret the findings in a rights based context. Impact evaluation is a rigorous methodology that aims to reliably test the effectiveness of interventions, policies and programmes. The findings from the study suggest that, if "scaled up", a similar intervention could potentially improve travel times, reduce excessive walking distances, improve the safety of travel to schools and curb the rates of absenteeism in the nation's schools. The study, however, also uncovers several impediments to the implementation of such an intervention within the existing policy environment.