We are working hard to place all existing and new applicants for a place in schools in the Western Cape as soon as possible, despite a massive R716.4 million budget cut.
So far, we have allocated places for over 120 000 learners, or around 98% of our applicants, and placement is in progress for 2 636 learners. Extremely late applications, received after January 1, continue to arrive, with district offices receiving parents who have not yet applied daily.
Many of our top schools have taken in extra learners to assist us in coping with the demand for places, and have added additional classrooms, including using their school funds for construction.
The challenge with extremely late applications is that we do not know how many new applications we will receive; where the extremely late placement will be required; the grades, language, and ages of the learners; and the specific subjects and specialised needs of the learners.
This has made planning our resource allocation in advance extremely difficult.
We understand that this is an anxious time for parents in this situation, and we will leave no stone unturned as we work to find a place for every learner in our schools.
We have frequently provided updates to the public regarding the admissions process in the interest of transparency. We now await the results of the 10th day SNAP survey, which will confirm how many learners have taken up their placement offers, and indicate where there are still spaces to offer.
Our infrastructure plan is detailed in the annual performance plan and budget documents each year, including the anticipated start and completion dates. Our regular Rapid School Build War Room brings together officials from across the province to monitor progress on the implementation of the plan, and to resolve challenges as they arise.
The devastating R716.4m in-year budget cut has dealt a severe blow to our ability to build schools and hire teachers at a time when we need it most, and there is widespread recognition that this will have a negative impact on our ability to place learners.
Last year, to cope with the expected average increase of around 19 000 learners, the Western Cape government passed the largest budget for education that our province has ever seen in March 2023, including a R2.9 billion infrastructure plan to build 21 new schools and 289 additional classrooms at existing schools.
We were prevented from executing this plan when warning signs of a fiscal crisis in the national government put the brakes on spending from June 2023, leaving provinces in complete limbo in terms of whether they would be able to pay for the contracts they entered into in order to construct schools and classrooms, and thus unable to proceed.
The national budget process has collapsed, and ultimately the unprecedented in-year budget cut at the end of 2023 meant that our plans had to be revised.
It is vital that public representatives engage urgently with the National Treasury and national minister regarding the funding of provincial education departments to cope with the demand for placement.
Despite the unforgivable assault on our budget, we are continuing to fight to place learners, by building 10 new and three replacement schools, and dozens of extra classrooms, to expand the number of places available in our schools.
We appeal to parents for their patience while we find places for their children, and assure them that we will not rest until we do so. And we will continue to work to find places for all new applicants that continue to seek a place in the Western Cape.
* David Maynier, Education MEC, Cape Town.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.