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Friday, March 5, 2021
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I had to repeat grade ten because of Metrorail

Tariro Washinyira

Cape Town’s Metrorail poor service is responsible for learners arriving late to school; the disruption of classes; learners missing and failing exams and even those very learners getting robed on their way home from school.

Last week, learners gathered at Thandokhulu High in Mowbray to share their experiences of using Metrorail trains to commute to school.

Youth groups of grade eight to eleven learners, known as equalisers, from Walmer, Oakland, Salt River and Thandokhulu high schools voiced their dissatisfaction with Metrorail.

A learner from Thandokhulu said she was angry.

“I used to take a train from Heideveld to Salt River on the Central line … Trains were always delayed, cancelled, and I was always late for school.”

“Even though I had bought a weekly ticket for R50 I sometimes had to take a bus. I was absent from school numerous times because there were no trains at all, ” she said.

The learner added that she even missed some of her exams or arrived very late to an exam venue. As a result of this, she failed the tenth grade and had to repeat it.

She also mentioned the issue of robberies on trains.

“I never took any valuables to school because trains are not safe; commuters get robbed on the train,” she said

A grade eight learner at Walmer High, who travels from Langa, said he was regularly late for school.

“The teacher doesn’t shout, but I have to pay a R5 fine. If I do not have it, I have to stay behind and clean,” he said.

The learner said Metrorail used to give them letters showing that trains were delayed but it soon lost meaning because they, the learners, were late every day.

“I feel like it’s not my fault that I am late. I do not deserve to be punished. I wake up very early but sometimes the trains are cancelled. When they do come they are too full. And they get stuck. Then I have to wait sometimes 30 minutes or an hour for it to move again. Then, when I am finally dropped off at Woodstock, I have to walk for about 30 minutes to reach my school,” he said.

A 13-year-old learner at Salt River High, who travels from Crossroads also shared their story.

“Teachers question why I am late every day, why I don’t get up early. They don’t believe my story that trains get stuck on the way. They ask why I then don’t use a bus or taxis, but my family can only afford the train,” said the learner.

The learner said: “The class teacher called my mother and asked to make a plan that allows me to be at school on time or find another school in the area where I live. My parents are very worried about me walking alone as early as 6 am to catch the train.”

Spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department Jessica Shelver said the department had asked Metrorail to address the issues urgently.

“Metrorail needs to be questioned in terms of their plans to address these issues that are greatly impacting the lives of people in the Western Cape especially disadvantaging our learners,” said Shelver.

She said schools would accommodate learners as far as possible in terms of late coming and give catch up programmes as required.

A month agoe, Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scot said: “Like motorists, train users will unfortunately have to rise earlier to get to work or school on time.”

Equal Education Law Centre intends to build a case with the learners’ testimonies and take Metrorail to court.

Read the original story here

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