Cape Town -
Hundreds of Mitchells Plain children have still not found places in schools and legal action against the provincial education department is being planned.
Colleen Horswell, chairwoman of the Mitchells Plain Education Forum, said about 700 children had not been placed and a march to the education district office was being planned for later this week.
She said parents were disappointed with the provincial education department and legal action was being considered as children were being denied their right to basic education.
Bronagh Casey, spokeswoman for Education MEC Donald Grant, said more than 250 children in Mitchells Plain had been placed over the past two days and about 550 children still needed placement.
She said admission to a public school was “regulated essentially” by an admission policy determined by the school governing body.
“The Western Cape Education Department is committed to finding places for all learners in this province. We must, however, follow the law in this regard.”
Elsewhere, the department is starting to clamp down on truancy and also looking at getting pupils who have been unable to attend school, back at their desks.
A case in point is Ayabonga Njokwane, who loves going to school, but the 11-year-old hasn’t attended class in days because his unemployed parents can’t afford a uniform.
On Monday his mother, Faniswa Ngcime, sobbed at her home in Marcus Garvey, Philippi, after safety fieldworkers from the metro south education district and officers from the Philippi East police visited the family as part of a truancy operation.
Ngcime told officials that Ayabonga said he wasn’t going to school that day and that she had allowed him to stay at home. But she later confided to the Cape Argus that poverty was what was keeping her children out of school.
The mother of four, who has two children of school-going age, said her husband occasionally did odd jobs, and their only other income was child support grants she received for three of the children.
She said Ayabonga and his sister Inam Ngcime, 8, had been enrolled at no fee-schools but she had been unable to buy uniforms for them.
“In the winter months they don’t go to school because they don’t have something warm to wear.”
Asked if it would not have been better to send them to school on Monday as they would have been able to benefit from the feeding scheme, Ngcime said: “I want to give them something (to take with).
“I never went to school. My parents also struggled.”
She said Ayabonga was clever and did well at school and teachers had sometimes complained when he was absent.
At another home a mother told officials that her daughter was at home because she had missed her transport to school.
Elsewhere in the area, a 10-year-old boy, who was spotted by police and officials, said he had been late for school on Monday morning and couldn’t go to class because the gate had been closed.
With tears rolling down his face, he said he had been too afraid to go home as he would have gotten a hiding and instead roamed the streets until the end of the school day.
Officials also handed out pamphlets on the importance of attending school every day, with contact details for the safe schools call centre.
Casey said 12 households, where children were not in school, were visited yesterday as part of a back-to-school truancy campaign in the metro south education district.
“The safety field workers will follow up tomorrow (today) on some of the issues raised.”
She said the policy on learner attendance, published in May 2010, sets out the responsibilities of pupils, schools, parents and the education department.
The policy states that should a pupil be absent for three consecutive days without explanation, the class teacher had to report this to the principal. The school then had to follow up with parents.
“The incident should also be reported to the education department for further follow up should the learner still not return to school after seven days.
“When truancy is reported to the district office, the parents are contacted and an appointment is set for a home visit by a safety worker.”
Casey said while schools were allowed to lock their gates for safety reasons, pupils should still be allowed access.
In terms of school uniforms, she said dress codes were determined by school governing bodies.
“There may be circumstances where parents find it difficult to buy a uniform. We suggest that parents discuss this issue with the school in these circumstances.”