Western Cape struggles to place learners despite budget cuts


The Western Cape government says it is doing everything in its power to build new schools faster than ever despite a cut of R716.4 million in its education budget.

“Our officers and contractors have been working hard throughout the holiday season to make sure we can expand the number of places available for learners for whom we have already received applications, and to prepare for the expected extremely late applications received since 1 January 2024 ,” says David Maynier, provincial minister of education.

Infrastructure upgrades

“We are building 10 new schools and three replacement schools for learners in the 2024 school year. We are busy finishing work on our new junior high schools in Belhar, Fisherhaven and Kwanokuthula.”

The province is building these schools as part of its Rapid School Build program which delivers high quality schools at an impressive rate.

“After more than a year of our construction work being prevented due to criminal activity, we have laid the foundations at the Blueridge site, where we are currently building a new primary school and high school for the community of Wallacedene.”

Operations have also resumed at the Lwandle Primary School in Somerset West following disruptions at the premises. “We are working hard to complete these delayed projects as quickly as possible.”

Classroom expansions are also ongoing or have already been completed at dozens of existing schools, some of which have used their own funding to increase the number of places available at schools.

Admissions and placements

Before schools closed on 12 December 2023, the Western Cape Department of Education announced that it had finalized placements for 99.43% of learners whose applications for grade 1 and grade 8 were received for the 2024 school year.

“Since then, and while schools were closed over the holidays, we received new applications for learners whose parents had not previously applied. We expect to receive many more over the next few weeks,” says Maynier.

The department has already received 609 new, extremely late applications in the first 10 days of January 2024. Placement continues for 2,636 grade 1 and grade 8 learners.

“While the schools are closed, it is difficult to finalize the placements. As soon as the school year starts on Monday for teachers, this process will resume.”

The next key date on the admissions calendar is the 10th day SNAP survey which is extremely important because it will give an indication of where places are still available for learners who need a place, and it will enable the department to use resources more efficiently regarding the extremely late applications received.

Late applications

The challenge surrounding extremely late applications is that the department does not know how many new applications it will receive; where the posting is required; grades, language and age of learners are unknown as well as the specific subjects and special needs of the learners.

“We ask for patience while we make progress with the placement of these extremely late applications. We cannot predict when and where these late applications will arrive. This makes planning our resource allocation extremely difficult.”

Any parent who has not yet applied for the 2024 school year is urged to do so immediately at their district office. Details about the district offices are available here: https://wcedonline.westerncape.gov.za/contact/districts

“We will endeavor to place every learner for whom an application is received, but we want to make it clear: schools are full in the Western Cape.”