Frustrated parents are accusing the Western Cape Education Department of creating an admission system that discriminate children from previously disadvantaged homes Picture Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA.
Frustrated parents are accusing the Western Cape Education Department of creating an admission system that discriminate children from previously disadvantaged homes Picture Leon Lestrade. African News Agency/ANA.

WCED accused of designing admission policies that further segregate communities

By Zodidi Dano Time of article published Jun 2, 2021

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THE Western Cape Education Department’s (WCED) schools enrolment and admissions policy has again come under fire for allegedly strategically introducing policies that aim at segregating and discriminating against applicants from previously disadvantaged communities.

The WCED has an admissions portal where parents apply online. An application's opening date is announced by the WCED and parents apply during that period with all the necessary documents. Parents are encouraged to apply to at least five schools. Once the application deadline is reached, applications are reviewed and feedback is given to the parents whether the child is accepted or “oversubscribed” – another way of saying the application has been rejected.

Should pupils not get placement parents are required to make contact with the district office which will look for placements.

According to parents, often the district office looks for schools near the child’s home.

Shorn Khumalo, whose niece is in the process of looking for a grade 8 placement for 2022, said he was disgruntled by the WCED’s admissions process.

His niece applied at 10 schools across the Cape and out of the 10 only two had placed the child on a waiting list. He said his niece attended a primary school in the metro district and he had applied to a high school near the primary school the child was attending but the application was rejected, despite the child having a good academic record.

“I am actually fumbled and dismayed by it. It reeks of segregation and further divides the already segregated Western Cape province. Parents are being told by schools that their children will not be accepted as the policy stipulates that each school should accept kids within areas they live in. This means, regardless of your great academic performance, where you live is a disadvantage and minimises your chances of getting into a school of your choice,” he said.

Khumalo took it upon himself to make contact with Education MEC Debbie Schafer, who denied this policy criterion.

In an email seen by IOL, she says: ”WCED’s goal is to make every school in the Western Cape a school of choice and excellence.”

Khumalo said: “If you visit the WCED website, the opening page encourages and advises parents to apply in areas they live in. The system is most likely to place you in the area you live in. This happened to my cousin in 2019. She was placed by the same system in a school near our home.

“Parents will not apply in schools in their area we live in because historically they do not have the same resources.”

Schafer denied allegations that the system was designed to segregate pupils. She said while applications were made online it was not the system that evaluated the application, but the actual schools via the system.

"If the parents of 600 learners apply to one school, and they only physically have 200 places available, they will not be able to accept all 600 learners. Once they have made all the offers they can, and there is no more place left for the additional applications, they are oversubscribed," she said.

She said parents were able to request reasons from the school.

If the child is still not accepted, and the parent believes that they should be, they can appeal the decision to the Education MEC, giving evidence that could include:

  • That they live closer to the school than other successful applicants – giving specific details.
  • That their application was prejudiced or discriminated against.
  • That the school made a serious administrative or procedural error with their application.

Loyiso Mfubesi, another parent, said he had the same experience struggling to get his daughter in to school last year.

He said he lived 10 minutes from Table View High School and Milnerton High and he had applied in time but his application was rejected.

He said it took him fighting and getting the help of EFF members to ensure that his daughter was accepted by the school that previously rejected her.

“This thing about preference of where you reside is nonsense. Why are we not able to apply at schools of our choice for our children? Just because you live in Khayelitsha, does that mean your child must go to school there too? The system does not even take into account parents' travel routes to work. This is segregation at its best.”

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