Boys at Goodwood Park Primary line up after packing their bags away neatly on their first day of school. Picture Courtney Africa/ African NEws Agency

Cape Town - As the 2020 school year officially starts today, some parents are still battling to ensure that their children are placed. 

Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said every year, the department had learners who were unplaced at the start of the school year due to late enrolment or demands for specific schools or areas.

Hammond said parents may have to wait weeks to find places at schools in the Western Cape, if they did not already have places.

“On the 10th school day, if a learner has failed to arrive at school, then the school can take them off their enrolment list. This opens up places across the province.”

She said some learners decided to enrol in other provinces, while others had simply been enrolled at more than one school and failed to notify the relevant schools that they would not be admitting their child into a particular school. Hammond said the learner population in the province continued to grow dramatically. 

This was, due to continued inward migration and high retention rates at schools.

“The total number of Grade 1 to 12 learners has increased by 141 044 learners since 2011. This would have required 108 new schools, housing 1 300 learners each, to accommodate this increase,” she said.

A teacher from a school in Khayelitsha, who did not want to be named, said the department’s online system was a contributor to placement problems. She said it was only open for a limited period.

She said parents without internet access at home/work had to take a day’s leave to go to a school or a library to apply.

“As it is dangerous for schools, especially in townships, to avail their computer facilities, as armed robbery is rife, that also resulted in many parents not applying in time.”

However, Hammond said the district offices were assisting parents to find alternative options as schools reopened, but that did take time and parents must stay in touch with their district office.

She said the highest areas of demand included the Delft area, Mfuleni and Helderberg basin. “The greatest demand in terms of district would definitely be in Metro East.”

ANC deputy chief whip in the provincial legislature and party spokesperson on education Khalid Sayed said towards the end of last year, his office was inundated  with complaints from parents whose children had not been placed, even though they applied timeously and met all requirements.

Sayed said it was a situation they were following up. “The WCED… must make sure that all learners are at school today…”

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Cape Argus