Durban - Durban schools have called the ban on school trips a storm in a teacup that will only affect schools not following the provincial Education Department’s rules.
But Wally Pelser, managing director of the country's largest outdoor education and tour operation for schools, The Ventures Group/Edu-Ventures, said yesterday that many schools were confused because they had not received the circular that banned all unauthorised long-distance school trips until the end of the year.
Education MEC Senzo Mchunu’s spokeswoman, Muntu Lukhosi, said the circular applied to government schools and not to independent schools. She said it was unacceptable that 28 pupils had died in accidents in the past month.
Mchunu and Transport Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu will attend a mass funeral for 10 pupils in Bergville who died in an accident last weekend.
“It is important for schools to speak to the office of the head of department for authorisation, because there are schools that just embark on trips without informing head office. It is our duty to make them understand that if children die the MEC has to answer to parents,” Lukhosi said.
Lukhosi said if schools felt they would lose money if they cancelled trips they should apply for permission and meet all safety requirements.
Pelser said some businesses had offered to take their services to school premises to avoid road trips and cancellations.
“There seemed to be huge confusion with numerous schools not yet receiving their written circulars or instructions and not knowing what to do as they were legally contracted and liable for cancellation fees – some instances amounting to hundreds of thousands of rands – and at the same time not wanting to jeopardise their positions by not following instructions from authorities,” Pelser said.
Glenwood Boys’ High School principal Trevor Kershaw said his school always got permission from the department and ensured that all buses and drivers were licensed.
“This is a bit of a storm in a tea cup because there is a procedure of applying for permission and we have been following these instructions for a good few years now. We are travelling to Europe tomorrow (Friday) with 30 boys and 60 girls from Durban Girls’ High and approval was sought one year in advance and the MEC’s office signed it off. The system, if you work with it, works.”
Westville Boys’ High principal Trevor Hall said the school did not envisage cancelling any trips because the department had authorised them.
“The school has processes in place for checking vehicles and chartered buses. We also have controls to monitor drivers… We have an U15 water-polo team participating in a tournament in Cape Town. We have five further sports tours planned for the October holidays. If schools comply with all the necessary safety measures that are needed, there should be no problem.”
Independent on Saturday