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Close to 1.1 million Western Cape pupils start their academic year

A Grade R learner at Parliament Street Primary School, on his first day at school on Wednesday. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

A Grade R learner at Parliament Street Primary School, on his first day at school on Wednesday. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 20, 2022

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Cape Town - After two daunting school years under the Coronavirus pandemic, thousands of schoolchildren were excited to take their seats in a classroom on Wednesday to start the 2022 academic year.

The Cape Argus visited a few schools, including Zimasa Primary School in Langa, Parliament Street Primary School in Mfuleni and Inkanini Primary School in Khayelitsha, and saw learners allocated to classes.

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One of the parents, Nomasibulele Mvotyo, at Zimasa Primary School, said her child had been looking forward to the day.

Zimasa Primary School governing body chairperson Celeka Daniso said one of the problems the school faced was a lack of classrooms.

“We would appreciate it if the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) could assist us with more classes, as this school is in high demand,” Daniso said.

First day at Zimasa Primary School in Langa. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla/Cape Argus

Meanwhile, a group of anxious parents were standing outside Inkanini Primary School in the hope that there would be space for their children, with community leaders and school management attending a closed meeting.

Safety and Security Mayco member JP Smith said going back to school was an exciting and often daunting time for both learners and parents.

Smith said many did not have the luxury of dropping off their children personally, and relied on the services of public transport operators and those who provided dedicated scholar transport.

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Education MEC Debbie Schäfer visited Perivale Primary School in Grassy Park on Wednesday, where she said learners were generally excited to be back in class, and principal Zaahier Jacobs and his staff were on hand to dry any tears from the youngest learners who were nervous about heading to “big school” for the first time.

Schäfer said adding to the excitement was the new replacement school that Perivale PS would move into this year.

She said close to 1.1 million learners started the 2022 school year in the Western Cape this week, including 105 000 Grade 1s and 97 000 Grade 8s.

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ANC provincial spokesperson for education, Khalid Sayed, said the ANC together with alliance partners and community leaders embarked on a back-to-school campaign in Mfuleni to assess school readiness.

Sayed said as per the norm, a lot of schools in the area still had scores of parents and pupils queueing outside for placement.

He said Mfuleni has been identified as one of the hot spot areas for learner placement challenges, affecting both primary and secondary schools due to rapid population growth and high school pupils from surrounding communities enrolling at schools in the area.

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“While we appreciate the decision of the WCED to start a new high school in the area, it is concerning that community leaders were sidelined in the process,” said Sayed.

He said while the new school has absorbed the majority of unplaced high school learners in the community, it was a cause for serious concern that the WCED had not come to the party through the appointment of a sufficient number of teachers.

Schäfer said the WCED has made great progress in placing learners who applied for the 2022 school year in 2021.

“Despite over 32000 late applications, the latest figures indicate that we have 442 Grade 1 and 2 419 Grade 8 learners that have yet to be placed. The districts are working hard to ensure their placement as soon as possible,” she said.

She said unfortunately, most learners would continue to attend school on a rotational basis, costing the learners further precious time in class despite recommendations from experts that schools return to full attendance.

She said she would continue to engage with the national government regarding a return to daily attendance for all learners as soon as possible.

Equal Education (EE) has urged the government to urgently abandon rotational timetables and safely reopen schools for all learners.

EE said if the government does not make that happen, they would be confronted with a lost generation of learners.

They said sadly the consequences of learners not attending school every day have been especially damaging for learners from poor and working class families – those who already experienced a poorly functioning education system.

“All learners must return to the classroom full-time to protect their learning as well as their mental and physical health,” said EE.

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Cape Argus

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