While the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) works to place late applications, activists say nearly two weeks after schools reopened it is also yet to place some children who applied on time.
According to WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond, although the department was waiting for the number of pupils in the process of placement to be verified, progress has been made.
She said additional places were opening up at some schools.
At the last count on January 11, the department said it had received 609 new applications in the first 10 days and had to place about 2 636 Grade 1 and Grade 8 pupils.
“When a learner has not arrived within 10 school days without a valid prior reason, that space can then be offered to another child. We have now reached the 10th school day which has allowed us to place learners in spaces that have opened up because some children have not taken up the place they were offered.
“While our rural districts have reported that placement for Grade 1 and Grade 8 learners has been successful, we know that districts such as Metro East and Metro North have been under pressure with extremely late applications. However, the numbers have dropped significantly.
“Districts report that the majority are from the Eastern Cape. We will be able to give figures on how many learners have registered from other provinces once data is verified,” said Hammond.
Parents for Equal Education SA (Peesa) founder Vanessa le Roux said the placement crisis was not new in the province and neither was the “excuse” of an influx of pupils from the Eastern Cape.
“All of the issues, including overcrowding, are not new. Every year it is the same story of budget or influx from one province. Instead of proper infrastructure being built, communities are given gutter infrastructure in the name of mobile classrooms.
“It is not only late applications that are affected. Even those who applied as soon as application opened (are affected). Our Constitution never said they should provide basic education if the budget allows them to,” she said.
ANC Education MPL Khalid Sayed, who conducted oversight visits at Simanyene, Lwandle and Nomzamo High Schools in the Strand area, said overcrowding issues were dire.
“Our pupils are being educated under extremely difficult circumstances where the teachers have classes in overcrowded mobile classrooms, where on average there are 63 or more children being taught in this heat.
“Their mobile classrooms are also in poor condition. This is despite the constant cry from the community, and schools requested for additional classrooms. More teachers and furniture are also needed because many learners share one desk,” said Sayed.
He said more than 300 children from these township areas have yet to step inside a classroom and learn.
Hammond said a new school was being built in Lwandle, with eight classrooms expected to be completed next month.
“I can also confirm that province-wide we have approximately 300 mobiles and classroom expansion projects in progress. An additional 100 have been completed thus far.
“This is all in addition to the new school builds, which is delivering approximately 100 classrooms as well,” she said.