Cape Town - There were tears, smiles, hugs and tantrums as parents parted from their children entering Grade R at Schotsche Kloof Primary School, in the Bo-Kaap, on Wednesday morning.
After final goodbyes were said, a group of parents hovered nervously in the corridors as they eavesdropped on teacher Waseefa Johaar, who started the morning’s lesson.
Some family members giggled at the wails coming from inside the classroom but Nadeema Karriem bit her lip in distress as Tauha, five, screamed blue murder.
A teaching assistant had to take him to one side, while she tried to calm him down.
“Shame, it is a big step for him,” said Karriem. “He never went to creche and was used to spending his mornings with me at home. That is why he’s so stressed out.”
At the pre-primary class downstairs, there were similar scenes.
Little Salman Jimale, four, cried and wriggled uncontrollably until he broke free from his teacher’s grasp and bolted for the door, where his mother caught him in her arms. She gave him a brief hug and then a stern talking to, before leading the boy back into the classroom.
Other children pushed their parents away and asked to be left alone, so that they could start their year on their own.
“He was just too excited,” said Nazreen Harris of her six-year-old son Abdul Mu-Izz, who started Grade 1 today.
“He loves the new uniform and school shoes. He just jumped out of bed and hasn’t looked back this morning.”
Millions of South African children kicked off the 2014 academic year on Wednesday morning, as inland and coastal schools reopened.
In Midrand, Gauteng, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga visited the Ponelopele Oracle Secondary School.
Motlanthe said the visit was intended to motivate teachers and congratulate them on a job well done, as the school was one of the top performers, despite being a no-fee institution.
“We decided to come to this school to thank the principal and teachers for the job they are putting in and to encourage learners,” he said.
Motshekga said it was all systems go for the new academic year and text books had been delivered. However she had got word that some schools in Limpopo and Mpumalanga had suffered storm damage.
Locally, Western Cape MEC for Education Donald Grant visited Fairview Primary School, where teachers have worked hard in recent weeks to move classrooms from mobile units to permanent structures.
“The staff have done an incredible job and it was a great to see the year getting off to smooth start,” said Grant.
“All the name tags for the Grade R and Grade 1 classes were ready and there were all round pleasant and happy scenes.
“In general, the school year got off without a hitch in the Western Cape.”
Yet, the school year inevitably brought stress to some parents and children in the country who had not yet been placed in a school, due to late registrations.
On Tuesday night, eTV news reported on shortfalls in school placements for pupils in Gauteng. Desperate parents arriving at schools at the last minute to register their kids is a challenge s experienced every year nationally and in the Western Cape.
“Ninety-nine percent of our pupils are placed,” said Grant.
“But there are always those parents who did not manage to register their children in time.”
Grant advised schools to divert parents to the department’s district offices, where a list of vacancies is available. Alternatively, parents are encouraged to call the department’s call centre, where the vacancies for various districts can be accessed. The number to call is 0861 923 322.