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Johannesburg - About 2 million children head off to school in Gauteng on Wednesday, and the scramble for last-minute places for late-comers is on.
On Monday, several parents spent hours in queues hoping to get space for their children in Joburg schools.
The five inland provinces - Gauteng, Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West - start school on Wednesday. The coastal provinces start next Wednesday.
Although registration of children for 2013 at Gauteng schools closed at the end of September, schools are usually flooded with thousands of last-minute attempts to register children in the first week.
At 5pm yesterday, more than 50 parents were still waiting patiently in the queue at Bree Primary School in Mayfair, where they were hoping Department of Education officials would help them get space for their children.
But many parents were angry, saying Gauteng Department of Education officials failed to help them enrol their children.
An incensed Matsatsi Mamabolo stormed out of the hall, screaming: “This is nonsense. They don’t want to help us, instead they are sending us from pillar to post. They are now saying I must go to Sandton where my district is, after I have waited all day in the queue.”
Mamabolo claimed she had not been able to apply for the registration of her daughter last year because she was living with her grandmother, who died. Now Mamabolo has to find a school for her daughter in Braamfontein, where she lives and works.
“I did not know my mother was going to die. My daughter doesn’t have anyone to look after her in Tembisa. She has to get a school close to where I live. What do they expect me to do now? I have nowhere else to go,” she screamed.
Beverley Sass said: “They are refusing to help my stepson… because he failed. Does that mean a child should not be accepted because of that? I’m very upset about this.”
Sass’s 15-year-old stepson was attending school in Klipspruit, but now lives in Bosmont with his father.
“How do they expect him to travel such a long distance every day? This is cr*p,” said Sass.
But when Mhlekazi Ishmael emerged from the hall, he was all smiles because the district officials had helped him to find a school for his son, who has just relocated from Cape Town.
“I’m so happy. They have helped me. I waited long hours in the queue, but it was worth it,” said Ishmael.
Yesterday, Gauteng education officials were unable to say exactly how many pupils are already registered for school in the province. There are about 2 300 Gauteng schools.
“We’ve got about 2 million learners in the system. That’s roughly what we’re working with,” Gauteng Department of Education spokesman Charles Phahlane said.
He couldn’t say how many last-minute registrations are expected.
“We don’t know. But we’ve got contingencies for that,” Phahlane said.
He said parents were referred to district education offices to apply there, and the district offices would try to place the children in schools. He asked parents not to go directly to the schools.
“We’ve always managed to fit all the extra children, so I don’t see why we can’t do so this year,” said Phahlane.
Gauteng pupils were promised nine new schools last year. These are being built by the Department of Infrastructure Development, or by contractors hired by that department, on behalf of the province’s education department.
Yesterday, Department of Infrastructure Development officials did not respond to queries on the schools, and Phahlane would not comment on the new schools.
In September, Infrastructure Development MEC Qedani Mahlangu promised to deliver nine new schools and one refurbished one to Education MEC Barbara Creecy by mid-March, the end of the first term.
Contracts were signed in late September, and Mahlangu gave them seven months to deliver.
“By mid-March next year, I want to hand over those schools to MEC Creecy, having gone through the snag list and everything else… It’s as simple as that,” said Mahlangu at the time.