Cape Town - Halfway through the school year, placement woes still plague the Western Cape Education Department, which is scrambling to accommodate 450 unplaced pupils.
The department said it was reeling under the sheer number of pupils who had relocated to the province, and the placement list did not solely include pupils who had been waiting for a place since the beginning of the year.
This year saw a massive increase in pupils, up from 16285 to 18285 pupils.
Education spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said: “The pupils are mainly pupils that have been in schools, but have requested admission in different areas in the province due to relocation.
“In many relocation cases, we cannot accede to the parents’ requests for a specific school in the area, as many of these schools are currently full.
“In some cases, pupils relocate to areas of demand.
“If the number of pupils is high in a certain area, then we are able to procure a mobile classroom, in consultation with a school.
“The department is currently erecting dozens of mobiles to alleviate shortages in these areas.
“This will then be able to assist with the current figure.”
Hammond said over the past few years the department had made it clear they do not have the budget to meet the demands of increased pupil enrolment at schools, particularly from other provinces, as well as the replacement of schools built with inappropriate materials.
“The department also prioritises schools for replacement in terms of needs based on the existing structure; however, we cannot do all of them in one go.
“We are, however, prioritising it and are spending roughly R400million a year to do so.”
The department has vowed that each school where the 450 pupils get placed would be assisted with catch-up plans.
Hammond said the success of the catch-up programmes had been seen in Mfuleni, where more than 1000 pupils in grades 1 to 11 were placed under a platoon system in mid-February.
This was after the children were crammed into halls, old clinic buildings and churches.
“Platooning is still going on, in Tsitsa Primary School and Nalikamva High School.
“The high school has produced a comprehensive tutoring programme submission to the District as well.
“There are ongoing discussions regarding the building of a new high school, while a primary school is near completion.”
Mfuleni community leader and parent Sipho Delana said: “We are pleased with the efforts of the department and the progress they have made to ensure the pupils catch up with their peers.
“During the March holidays, all the high school pupils were attending classes.
“The only problems still at hand are the feeding scheme and transportation of pupils.”