The figure – contained in a report released to the committee (view here) – is based on a target of 13 bridges per financial year. In most instances, the bridges are urgently needed in order to allow children to access schools. According to the report, KZN required 471 bridges in 2006. Since then, the DoT claims to have built 116 bridges, leaving a balance of 355.
The DA is deeply concerned by this finding. What it means is that for almost another three decades, thousands of children living in rural communities will have to continue risking their lives, by crossing often dangerous rivers, in order to receive an education.
During the same meeting, the DA also raised concern around the tabling of the report which dates back from 2006. This is the Department which is ultimately responsible for having the most up-to-date information when it comes to transport in our province. Yet here they are presenting information which is some 14 years old.
Then there is the recent embarrassment which must have been caused by the resurfacing of a media article from 2011, depicting KZN school children forced to cross the swollen uMzinyathi River, near Dundee. It is also worth noting that this area was not part of the initial report of 2006.
The same report also identifies other options of construction including Bailey bridges, with the assistance of the SANDF. The DoT expects to complete eight bridges under this programme during the next financial year. Unfortunately, the cost of alternatives is not provided and it is for this reason that the DA has requested that an updated study be conducted, one which includes costings on alternatives for all bridges that are required - both pedestrian and vehicular.
The DA looks forward to this project being implemented as soon as possible, with the more urgent areas prioritised. It is nothing short of shocking that more than 25 years after democracy, some children are still being denied safe access to schools – an issue which is compounded by the poor implementation of subsidized learner transport in KZN.
Our learners must have safe access to their school of choice. Above all, they should not have to risk their lives to receive a basic education. The DA will continue to monitor this project in the interest of the children of our province.