It's the same old scramble for places as pupils head back to school

06 January 2019 - 00:00 By KATHARINE CHILD
Image: 123RF/Nathapol

It's back to school on Wednesday and experts and education departments expect an influx of pupils into Gauteng and Western Cape due to parents' quest to find the best schools for their kids.

However, the national department of basic education said most pupils who had applied had been placed in schools by mid-November.

The department admitted that one of the difficulties in finalising the placement of pupils last year was that of "some schools attracting more applications than others".

Hot spots where demand for schools was high included East London, Port Elizabeth and Mthatha in the Eastern Cape; Strand; Mitchells Plain and George in Western Cape; Frances Baard district in Northern Cape; and Pinetown and Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal. Alberton, Pretoria, Midrand, Benoni, Mondeor, Kempton Park, Bryanston and Centurion had high demand for schools in Gauteng.

"The schools in your neighbourhood should be good enough but they are not," said Basil Manuel, executive director at teachers' union the National Professional Teachers Organisation of SA.

Manuel said the poor quality of many rural schools and lack of jobs in rural provinces "starts this entire drama", with parents arriving at Gauteng the week school starts for places for their children. "It's the same old, same old every year with this influx."

The department told parliament in November that most pupils had already been placed. But it also said it was prepared for unplaced pupils. "Mobile classrooms will be provided to respond to demographic shifts and population movements."

Matric results released this week show that out of every 11 pupils who started grade 1 in 2007, six reached matric last year, four of whom passed. Of the 20 top-performing school districts, 15 were in Gauteng. This drives the demand for certain schools in certain provinces.

Western Cape education spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said migration into the province was straining resources.

"We saw over 22,000 learners from other provinces enter the Western Cape province at the start of the 2018 academic year."

By September last year Western Cape had received 10,000 applications for 2019 from other provinces, 60% from the Eastern Cape.

Gauteng spokesperson Steve Mabona said the province was expecting more unplaced pupils next week, but would find places for them. "Parents must bear with us because we will not be able to place them in schools that are full."

Mabona said Gauteng had received 12,000 late applications and in most cases documentation was outstanding.

Northern Cape education spokesperson Geoffrey van der Merwe said a challenge for the province was parents appealing against the school they had been allocated, or questioning their rejection by a preferred school. The department had received 575 appeals.

"We will not be able to guarantee a school of preference due to the available spaces at certain schools. We have committed ourselves to finalise most, if not all, learner placements before the schools open."

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