The Cape Argus followed Amy Pharaoh from home to school on her first day as a Grade 1 pupil at The Pinelands Primary School. Pictured is Amy with mom, Jill Pharaoh. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency
Cape Town - Parents who have not yet enrolled their children for Grade 1 and Grade 8 have been scrambling to find a place for them as applications at most schools have closed for the academic year.

Elijah Mhlanga, spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education and Training, said the department was ready for the first day of school on Wednesday.

“Principals and teachers were already back at schools from Monday in preparation for the start of the school year.” Mhlanga said provisions for textbooks and stationery had been made for the pupils who enrolled on time, while the department was dealing with accommodating late applications. Minister Angie Motshekga was visiting some of the under-performing schools.

Vusumzi Soyeye, the principal of Sosebenza Primary School in Khayelitsha, said the school received a number of applicants last year and it was letting parents know whether their children were accepted or not.

The Western Cape Provincial Education Department (WCED) said it was prepared for the new school year.

WC Education MEC Debbie Schäfer’s spokesperson Jessica Shelver said the demand for places at schools was growing and a mass movement of pupils with their parents to the Western Cape this month placed additional pressure on the admissions process.

Shelver said all pupils who required admission should be accommodated. “An extensive enrolment drive is conducted annually by the WCED to ensure parents apply timeously for places at schools.”

Shelver said that every year the WCED ran an extensive early enrolment campaign, but every year one of the main hindrances to placing children in schools on time was late enrolment.

She encouraged parents to apply early. Admissions for next year will open on February 15 and close on March 15.

“We encourage all parents wanting to enrol their child in a school for the 2020 school year to do so by March 15. This is particularly so for learners applying for admission into Grade R, Grade 1 and Grade 8.

“We would like to ensure that as many places are filled by the third term. We appeal to parents to assist us in assisting them to make the 2020 enrolment process as swift and efficient as possible so we can have a positive start to the school year.”

Shelver said that in the third term the department issued schools with the annual “planning calendar”, which included a schedule of dates for training programmes, meetings, tests and examinations, and important administrative deadlines.

She said the department wanted to assist as many parents as possible to find a school. Shelver said parents must contact their nearest districts.

The WCED completed at least six schools last year. Shelver said another school would be completed by April. She said three mobile schools had also been completed to accommodate the additional growth in hot spot areas.

“Forty-six additional mobile classrooms have been erected in areas identified for growth and 34 brick-and-mortar classrooms.”

Shelver said It was important the WCED knew how many applications had been received so it could plan where more resources were required.

During registration and admission, two officials from the WCED were held hostage by the Mfuleni Education Forum and the Mfuleni Development Forum in their community hall.

Shelver said the officials went to discuss education provisioning in the area and the forums refused to let them leave.

Mfuleni Education Forum chairperson Thembekile Gqwaka said the forum was tired of the corrupt government and wanted to be informed whenever the department was planning anything in their areas.

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Cape Argus