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First day of academic year kicks off

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Endinako Sicwebu, seven, prepares for his first day at Irene Primary School in Centurion. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi

Pretoria/ Durban - It’s all systems go for teaching and learning in schools across the city as thousands of Grade 1 pupils start their academic career on Wednesday morning, when the school year officially starts.

Schools said they were ready for the new crop of pupils, some of whom attended orientation on Tuesday. Others were familiarised with their new schools, teachers and other staff before the end of last year.

“We had orientation this morning (on Tuesday), and expect the kids here in full force tomorrow (on Wednesday),” Lynda Skeepers from Doringkloof Primary School said on Tuesday.

All the school’s Grade 1 classes were full, she said, and there was no space for late applicants. The school has four English and one Afrikaans class, and applicants had come in early, and admissions done on time.

Irene Primary School also said its Grade 1 classes were full. It had two categories of hopefuls who wanted a place in the school.

“We have reached maximum capacity,” said Lorrain Terron, a staff member.

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Finding the perfect fit, Caitlyn Enock, 5, tries on her first pair of school shoes with help from shop assistant Pretty Njapha at Kool Kids Store in City View Centre. Caitlyn will join thousands of children across the province who go to school for the first time on Wednesday. Photo: S'bonelo Ngcobo

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The school had a waiting list of 30 pupils. Parents had stuck to the early deadline of May, set by the Department of Education last year, and by the end of the school year they had already seen their Grade 1 class of 2014 and their parents.

Although Walter Sisulu Primary School in Olievenhoutbosch said its classes were already full, and it had reached its maximum number of 45, it would take in more if the department instructed it to do so. An official in the school’s admission department said the school only had one Grade 1 class. Although it was full and it had turned parents back after last October, it kept in mind that some children needed the space, and not because they had applied late.

“Some move into the area and need an education. Others are rejected at schools they thought they would get into,” she said.

At least 132 000 Grade 1 pupils are expected to start their education at schools across the province.

By Wednesday district offices in Pretoria will be processing outstanding and late admissions.

Officials in these centres have been working on school readiness and admissions since the end of the last term last year, and will be looking at schools that have space and that can take in extra children.

While schools reported being full to capacity on Tuesday, and said they could not admit any more pupils, the Gauteng Department of Education said all was not lost, parents did not have to despair if their children had no place by Wednesday.

“All children will be placed,” spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said.

The department had an obligation to ensure education was accessed by all, he said. “Parents must go to the nearest district office, which will allocate a school,” he said.

Parents would have to compromise, because space might not be available at the school of their choice, he said. They could be allocated to a school further than they had hoped for. “They might only get into their fourth or fifth choice of school,” Mhlanga said.

At Bohlabatsatsi Primary School in Mamelodi there was still space for more Grade 1s, principal Virginia Masemola said. “We are expecting parents to queue up for the remainder of the week, because in townships they are not used to early deadlines and early applications.”

The school has one class, and expects 35 children on Wednesday, but it can take up to 40 pupils or more if the situation demands.

The Pretoria central business district was a hive of activity on Tuesday as parents went about last-minute shopping. Some shops had long queues and offered specials on uniforms and stationery.

The queues were also long at some schools, where parents went to buy uniforms and stationery. Among them was Sunnyside Primary School, which had reached its maximum intake for Grade 1. It would refer parents to other schools where space was still available.

Deputy principal Roxanne Reddhi said: “We have four full classes of 40 pupils each.

“Late admissions will take place for the next few days.”

Meanwhile in Durban the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education says it is “combat ready” for the start of the school year, and has promised there will be no textbook debacles or pupils without teachers in the province .

“Stationery was delivered at the end of November; this includes textbooks and workbooks. We fully concluded admissions at the end of October and have been dealing with individual incidents where complaints have been made,” department spokesman Muzi Mahlambi said on Tuesday.

Schools that requested additional teachers and resources had been accommodated where possible by the department, as they prepared for the influx of more than 200 000 new pupils, he said.

Head of department Nkosinathi Sishi said recently built schools had been fitted with desks and other necessities, with his department working closely with principals and governing bodies to ensure that they were ready for the first day of school.

Sishi said officials would be inspecting schools today to monitor progress.

Among those who will be touring are the MEC for Education, Peggy Nkonyeni, and members of the provincial legislature.

“The aim is to ensure that learning and teaching starts on the first second of the schools’ opening.

“Gone are the days when teaching and learning will start days after the first day of the academic year,” said Nkonyeni, who would be visiting the Zululand district.

The visit by members of the legislature would range across the various schooling districts

The DA’s spokesman on education, Tom Stokes, said with 6 500 schools in the province, there were likely to be “a few problems” but, overall, he had faith in the school year starting well.

“I am pretty confident things will be all right and from a planning point of view I am confident,” said Stokes.

He had attended several meetings held by the department in the build-up to schools opening, and all questions he put forward had been adequately answered.

“I asked about the delivery of textbooks in November and I was assured 98 percent of them had already been delivered. I was also told letters of appointment for graduate teachers were handed out in December,” he said.

“We have some competent officials in the department, and a very committed HOD (Sishi). I do not always agree with him, but he is committed.” he added.

Pretoria News and The Mercury


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