No school places for too many children

An estimated 40 000 children in Gauteng and the Western Cape will not get to experience what a first day at school feels like, because there is no space for them in public schools in these provinces.

Some of them may even stay at home for as long as two years because of the shortage of places.

In Gauteng, 30 000 pupils are waiting for places. Of those, 17 000 only just applied for admission in time.

Ntombikayise Ntsizwane, who applied to Impala Crescent Primary in Lenasia before the deadline, had been waiting in front of the department’s district office in Johannesburg from 06:00 last week, in an effort to get her child placed in a school.

She was told there was no space.

“My other children are already in that school. I pay the school fees and I should be able to decide where my child goes to school,” said Ntsizwane.

Tim Gordon, chief executive of the Governing Body Foundation, said the figure of 30 000 should begin to decline drastically by Wednesday, because many children had applied at more than one school.

However, Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona said they expected between 15 000 and 20 000 brand new applications because many parents simply did not enrol their children in schools at all.

The education department was yesterday referring parents to district offices across Gauteng, in an attempt to place children in schools where there was still space.

In the Western Cape Bianca Stefanus’ daughter is also battling to find a place in a school.

“My child was supposed to be in Grade 3 last year, but there was no place for her in a school in the Strand or in Gordon’s Bay. As things stand she’s going to be stuck at home again this year,” said Stefanus.

She initially put her daughter in a private school, but was forced to take her out because she could not afford the fees.

“Last year, I got her a library card, so she can at least read,” said Stefanus.

She approached the Western Cape education department for help, but no solution had been found yet.

“Every English school in the area is full and the Afrikaans schools don’t want to take my child, because she is English.”

According to the department, space still had to be found for 11 249 pupils in the province, mostly in Grades 1 and 8. This number was expected to rise when schools open on Wednesday.

Department spokesperson Jessica Shelver said more than 150 000 pupils had migrated to the Western Cape over the past five years, which had placed the schooling system under enormous pressure.

She said the department could not build schools fast enough because the budget for education in the province was not keeping pace with the growth in pupil numbers.

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi would on Wednesday open a new school in the west of Johannesburg. In 2014, it was already estimated that the province had a shortage of 160 schools. In the past year, only 20 new schools were opened. In the Western Cape 100 new schools had been built since 2009. – Rapport

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