‘Chaotic’ back to school for parents, unions

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is ready to welcome at least 14 million pupils back to schools across the country.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) is ready to welcome at least 14 million pupils back to schools across the country.

Published Jan 17, 2024


The Department of Basic Education (DBE) was ready to welcome at least 14 million pupils back to schools across the country on Wednesday, despite some principals expressing frustration over lack of funds for learning materials, damage to schools and staff shortages.

“The department is confident that schools will open in earnest following two days of final preparation done by teachers around the country. The DBE has not received any reports that would indicate that the system is not ready to welcome the 14 million learners. We are, however, aware that there are parents who still wish to finalise admission matters with schools but this should not mean that learning won't happen,” said DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.

Western Cape Education MEC David Maynier said the department has spent R49 million in textbooks, R24m in stationery, R17.5m in furniture and R2m in equipment as part of preparations for the new academic year.

“It’s all systems go for the new school year. Officials and contractors have also been working through the holiday to deliver 10 new schools and hundreds of extra classrooms for new learners in 2024.”

However, the department was still dealing with unplaced learners. At the weekend, it confirmed that it was still busy placing 2 636 Grade 1 and 8 pupils while it had received more than 600 new applications.

ANC MPL Khalid Sayed said they had engaged parents from schools across the province, including the Boland area, Grabouw and Cape Town, and found several parents whose children were still unplaced.

Maynier said: “We appeal for patience as we finalise the remaining placements of new applicants. We wish our learners, teachers, parents and officials a happy and successful year.”

Disgruntled parents in Gauteng have threatened to take the provincial department to court over the “chaotic” online registration. Notwithstanding the grievances, the Gauteng Education Department said it was ready for the start of the academic year.

Uncertainty awaited KwaZulu-Natal teacher unions who expressed frustration over funds for learning and teaching support materials (LTSM), damage to schools and staff shortages.

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) KZN chief executive Thirona Moodley said the union has been inundated with complaints from frustrated school principals who did not receive LTSM funds on time for the 2024 school year.

Moodley said schools placed orders for learning materials in 2023 and due to the department failing to pay their allocations, they were not able to pay service providers.

As a result, she said these schools had not received teaching and learning material for 2024.

“This will make teaching and learning impossible on the first day. Schools today (yesterday) received a fraction of what is due to them,” said Moodley.

The department said on Sunday it would make LTSM payments into schools’ accounts that would enable principals to make payments to service providers.

“A portion of basic allocations will also be made available to schools for operational requirements,” it said.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga is expected at the handover of Mayibuye Primary in Midrand on Wednesday.

Maynier, along with Premier Alan Winde and provincial Education Department superintendent-general Brent Walters, will visit Westcott Primary School in Diep River.

Cape Times

* Additional reporting by Karen Singh and Siyabonga Sithole