Schools admissions policies run contrary to transformation. The policies themselves discriminate against learners from previously disadvantaged backgrounds. That’s according to Shorn Khumalo, who is guardian to Grade 7 pupil Snenhlanhla Gumana.
Children who live in poorer communities often struggle to secure placement and admission into former Model C schools located in more affluent, neighbouring areas, due to admissions policies excluding children living outside a 5km radius.
While this ensures preference for pupils living closer to the school, it also excludes pupils who are both academically capable and whose parents or guardians are able to afford the fees and the commute. These children are often put on the waiting list.
This is especially prevalent in the Western Cape, where pupils are excluded from attending former Model C schools by virtue of the fact that they live in areas dictated by apartheid spatial planning.
Khumalo said many schools’ admissions policies are discriminatory. Khumalo said they had applied to at least ten schools in the Cape and none of them accepted Snenhlanhla.
According to Khumalo, the pupil who attends a school in the observatory had a good academic record and was taking leadership roles at the school.
“When you call these schools the first thing you are asked is your residence and then once you say Khayelitsha they tell you they are oversubscribed and can after appeal put your child’s name on the waiting list,” he said.
Khumalo appealed many of these applications further taking one to the Western Cape MEC Debbie Schafer’s office. His appeal was also dismissed by the MEC.
“The principal and SGB had not even reviewed our appeal. The principal while on the call with me told me he got a circular from the MEC’s office informing him of the dismissal of our appeal. We were told to apply to a school near us.
“Schools in our area are not of standard. The quality of education, the facilities etc. Even the home language issue as she is used to English as a home language, not IsiXhosa. It would be a huge culture shock to the child and is not an option for us,” he said.
Kerry Mauchline as Spokesperson to Schäfer said the WCED has not determined any feeder zones for public schools in the Western Cape. Admission of learners to all public schools should be within the prescripts of the law.
“The fact that we do not determine feeder zones allows for schools to accommodate learners from different areas in terms of their own admission policies,” she said.
However, schools were open to adding feeder zones as their own admission policy criteria as it is legal. Mauchline said even if the MEC rejects an appeal, the school SGB could still place the learner on its waiting list.
Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga had previously told IOL that different provinces adopt different policies that ensure that all learners are placed in schools.
“Each provinces implements its own feeder zone policy e.g Gauteng have their own which doesn’t necessarily look like that of Mpumalanga. The dynamics that influence the administration of admission policies and processes are not the same everywhere,” he said.
Education activist Hendrick Makaneta said there was still a great concern regarding transformation in the sector.
“27 years down the line we are still having complaints of learners not having access. The policy-making is shifting along racial lines. We are sitting on a ticking bomb,” said Makaneta.
The activist said there was a need to engage schools thoroughly and that schools are not left to do as they please.
“We need to set minimum requirements, a quota system. The national Department of Basic Education also needs to take political will, take drastic steps in analysing school, policies,” he said.
Western Cape SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) secretary-general Jonavan Rustin said the union was greatly disappointed that schools were still not transformed to reflect the demographics of the country.
“Policies at schools deny access to learners. We all know that we come from a terrible history where schools and communities were broken according to racial lines. The dispensation of the city we find our areas demarcated according to races like segregation,” said Rustin.
Speaking on Khumalo’s case, Rustin said schools such as Westerford High School can’t be used as feeder areas as most learners commute to schools.
He said the boundary that determines the 5km radius did not have enough population on its own therefore most learners would be commuting in any case.
Chair of the Governing Body Foundation Dr Anthea Cereseto confirmed that the apartheid Group Areas Act was the root of the problem which is being carried on.
“Schools that are high in demand are fairly often in white surburbs. Those schools were established, supported and extended by those communities. Children from those communities go to those schools. The feeder zones reinforce spatial demographic,” she said.
Cereseto said in Gauteng there has been an enormous shift in transformation where learners attended schools from afar. While in the Western Cape, she said “the problem is more difficult to overcome” but promised that there was a policy in the draft set to address the issue.
She agreed that maybe a quota system would assist in getting schools transformed.
“It's a reality of our history. But it is necessary for kids to attend schools in different areas to allow for diversity and for children to get an understanding in society,” said Cereseto.