Western Cape receives new school applications ‘daily’

Henry

More than 2,000 learners are still waiting for a place in a public school in the Western Cape, a number that may increase as applications continue to be submitted to this provincial department.

This while the Gauteng Department of Education (GDO) seems to have pulled a rabbit out of a hat to make room for all new gr.1 and gr.8 learners in this province.

David Maynier, minister of education in the Western Cape, told GroundUp that a total of 2 060 gr.8s and 576 gr.1s have yet to be placed, and they expect the number to rise.

High schools in particular feel the pressure particularly badly, with some schools receiving more than 4,000 applications, while the school can only take in more than 100 gr.8s.

According to a press release last week by the relevant department, 609 late applications were received in the first ten days of January and more are expected. “We are doing everything in our power to place these learners as soon as possible, despite the fact that we receive new applications daily,” said Maynier.

He said during a function on Wednesday that his department is in the process of building ten new schools and replacing three schools, precisely to ensure that all learners can find a place in a school this year. Several new classrooms were also built at existing schools, to address the lack of space.

“A total of 1.2 million learners started at a public school in the province on Wednesday. This includes 93,000 gr.1s and 98,000 gr.8s. We have 28,600 and 7,300 public service staff members in our public schools this year,” Maynier said.

He says the province sees an overall increase of around 19,000 learners every year and that they will have to build around 19 new schools every year, to meet this demand for space. This while the Western Cape education department’s budget was cut by R716.4 million this year.

Meanwhile, the GDO claims that all learners who applied for a place in a school in Gauteng last year were placed.

Last week Tuesday, the department was still scrambling to set up mobile classrooms and satellite schools in various places in the province.

According to Steve Mabona, departmental spokesperson, additional funding was provided to schools in high-pressure areas, so that 1,745 additional classrooms could be built.

However, not all learners are satisfied with where they have been placed.

About 30 parents gathered outside Florida Park High School in Johannesburg on Wednesday and Thursday and demanded that their children be placed here, as it is close to their homes.

These parents say their children have been placed in schools far away from home, or in Afrikaans schools, while they do not understand Afrikaans at all.

A group of about 20 parents also gathered at Mamelongu Secondary School in Ekurhuleni, because their children have not yet been placed in a school. These parents say the online application process has let their children down.

The online system is criticized annually from various quarters, with stakeholders calling for schools to be allowed to administer their own admissions.

In KwaZulu-Natal, hundreds of learners are also still waiting for a place in a school.

According to Muzi Mahlambi, spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education, 340,000 grade 8s started their high school career in this province on Wednesday. However, around 500 are still looking for a place in a school. According to a statement sent out by this department last week, all learners who applied for a place before the end of the school year have already been placed. “During the holidays, however, there were still a number of late applications that came through. These learners will be placed as soon as possible.”

The department is also satisfied that far fewer learners are still waiting for a place this year than was the case in previous years.