With the new academic year approaching in just two weeks, parents are upset their children’s applications have been rejected. File picture: Giyani Baloi
With the new academic year approaching in just two weeks, parents are upset their children’s applications have been rejected. File picture: Giyani Baloi

School admission policies used as a way of ’gate-keeping’: Cosas

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published Jan 13, 2021

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School admission policies are used as a way of gate-keeping, preventing children from previously disadvantaged areas from accessing education in predominately white schools, also known as Model C schools.

This is according to Congress of South African Students (Cosas) Western Cape acting provincial secretary Mphumzi Giwu.

With the new academic year approaching in just two weeks, thousands of parents are still in agony over rejected 2021 enrolment applications.

Apart from academic reports and affordability assessments, one of the criterion used is residential preference.

“Schools’ admissions policies are structured as a way of gate-keeping. You can simply see that by going through the schools in the predominantly white areas and check the number of learners from previously disadvantaged homes.

“It should never be about where one resides when going through applications or in the admissions policy. Every child has the right to education and there is absolutely no way that a parent or guardian would apply for a child at a school where they will not afford school fees, transportation and uniform in the first place,” said Giwu.

A legal dispute between the Federation of Governing Bodies for South African Schools and a member of the Executive Council for Education, together with the Gauteng head of Department of Education, highlighted geographical and spatial transformation in relation to feeder zones.

Feeder zones refer to areas where the school accepts its core intake.

A regulation introduced by Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi stated “if parents can’t get their children into the closest school because it is full, they will use the application zone process, which allows parents to apply to any other school within a 30km radius of where they live. If the school has space, pupils will be accepted irrespective of where they live.”

This was upheld by the Constitutional Court’s Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke.

In the Western Cape alone, 3 007 Grade 1 and 7 658 Grade 8 applicants have not been placed.

Department of Basic Education (DBE) spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga could not confirm the national statistics on placements as schools have not reopened.

Giwu said admission policies, formulated by the school governing bodies, were discriminatory.

This was also stressed by education activist group, Equal Education, who appeared as Amicus Curiae in the Constitutional Court case.

“The amicus also made a substantive attack on the constitutional validity of the default feeder zones presently prescribed in regulation 4 on the grounds that they unfairly discriminate by perpetuating apartheid geography. The gut of the objection is that default feeder zones are defined in spatial terms of place of residence or of work. Since the apartheid residential and workplace lines remain firm, the impact of the criteria of the MEC is to prolong and legalise racial exclusion,” the judgment read.

Mhlanga said the DBE’s admission policy merely outlined the requirements parents and schools should meet, but did not prescribe regarding feeder zones. Hence, each school formulated their own feeder zone.

“Admission is a concern, especially in the cities and towns which are generally high demand areas where people live and work and want their children to be enrolled there, only to find that space is limited. It is for this reason that admission processes for the following year begin in March to enable parents to meet all requirements.”

Cosas has called on the DBE to create standard guidelines that can be used by governing bodies when formulating their school policies.

“We believe that it is the responsibility of the Department of Education both at national level and in provinces to set out guidelines on admission policies, especially now that we have a lot of learners being rejected at schools due to residential preferences and race,” said Giwu.

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