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Johannesburg - Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe urged school pupils to focus on education as the 2014 school year kicked off on Wednesday.
Addressing pupils at Ponelopele Oracle Secondary School in Midrand, Motlanthe said government did not want them to be distracted.
“Our role as government is to make sure you have access to education. As young people, we don't want to burden you with any other issue,” he said.
Motlanthe told them life was a journey and the first step they chose to take on Wednesday would determine the type of results they obtained at the end of the year.
He urged the pupils to take education seriously as it was the only way to deal with inequalities in society.
“We live in an unequal society and education is the best equaliser. Education makes you a cultured person,” he said.
The deputy president challenged the current crop of pupils to maintain the standards already set at the no-fee school, which was among the top performing schools last year.
In Soweto, pupils were saying their goodbyes to their parents at Faresani Primary School. Some were tearful, while others were eager to start learning.
Some of the pupils progressing from Grade R to Grade One were anxious about the transition.
One girl, smiling bravely, said: “I want to go back to crèche”.
Another Grade One pupil said she was ready to face the year ahead.
“I got lunch, money and tissues in my bag.”
Another, sporting neat cornrows, said she had her hair done on Tuesday specially for the occasion.
“My mom said I must look good 'cause I was going to start a new school,” she said.
Security guards at the school closed the gates promptly at 8.30am.
At Paul Mosaka Combined Primary School in Pimville, Soweto, some parents were still trying to register their children.
Head of the school's foundation phase Tlhakane Moroke said: “We did have parents coming in since Monday but our administration department is dealing with that”.
Only a few late registrations were likely to be accepted because 72 percent of the classes at the school were filled by the end of last year.
Most pupils were wearing school uniforms, but a few were still in civvies.
In a Grade One classroom at the school, pupils sat quietly waiting for classes to begin. On the door of the classroom was a sign that read “Lebati”, which is Sesotho for “door”.
At St Cyprian's School in Cape Town there were only a few tears as parents dropped their little ones off for the first school day.
Some pre-school pupils were clinging to their parents before the official start of the school day. The parents said they were more nervous about letting go than their children were.
Some youngsters were clearly shy and had to be coaxed into classrooms by their doting parents.
One look at the school playground, however, had them running from their classrooms towards the sand pits and jungle gyms. - Sapa