Johannesburg - The first day of the 2013 school year appeared to be going smoothly on Wednesday morning as 2 million Gauteng pupils started classes.
There were few tears seen at schools visited by The Star.
This is what The Star saw:
* Staff at Wendywood Primary said these days new pupils were usually accustomed to school, having been through pre-primary.
Little Mwela Dikgakologo however, needed some reassuring.
Teacher Romela Narrandes had to comfort him as he snuggled safely onto her lap.
* Rivonia Primary, a school which has seen much publicity after being taken to court by the Education Department over its admission policy, refused The Star entry to the school and escorted a team off the premises. Bryanston Primary also refused The Star permission to take back-to-school photographs.
* At City Kidz Pre- and Primary School on Goud Street in the CBD, Gerald Mthethwa waited to start his first day, bouncing up and down.
“He’s excited, he can’t wait, but it’s also a scary day,” said Gerald’s father Samsung Mthethwa.
“Eish man, I’m very happy, it brings me back to my first day,” said Mthethwa, remembering how his own father had stroked the side of his face and then left him at the school. Today he wanted to wait with his son until school started.
Children walking through the City Kidz gates were greeted by friends they hadn’t seen since last year and the occasional stray soccer ball from a nearby game.
Katlego Mosoma was one of the children excited to see his friends again as he returned for Grade 1, but was reluctant to get the day started.
“I think he still wanted to sleep this morning,” said Katlego’s mother, Lindelani Mashamba.
Three Grade 4 boys stood chatting at the school, laughing and running around as they caught up with each other. One said he wanted to be a soccer player when he grew up, another a miner, and the third wanted to be a pilot.
* At Jeppe Primary School, a group of Grade 1s quietly coloured in pictures.
“We’ll see how long that lasts,” joked their teacher, who said it normally took until after break for the children to make friends and become chatty and loud.
Education MEC Barbara Creecy said the province had about 200 000 Grade 1 pupils this year. The total number of pupils in the provinces’ schools will be known once the department has completed the annual headcount on the 10th day of schooling.
* At Thuthukani Primary in south Joburg, Creecy found everything in order on Wednesday morning.
“Everything is fine. All textbooks have been delivered, workbooks and stationery, so they are ready for the start of schooling,” said Education Department spokesman Charles Phahlane.
*”We are the future, nothing can stop us,” MEC Lebogang Maile told pupils at Bukulani Secondary in Chiawelo, Soweto.
Maile, the MEC for Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation, emphasised to the pupils the need to focus, have positive role models and avoid mixing with the wrong crowd.
His spokeswoman Nino Zama said the pupils had arrived on time and at 8am started assembly, which was also addressed by one of last year’s matrics who had achieved six distinctions and aimed to encourage this year’s pupils.
At Bukulani 89 percent of the matrics passed and Maile encouraged them to work towards a 100 percent pass rate this year.
* Late arrivals and incorrect school uniforms were serious problems at Meadowlands High School in Soweto.
Pupils continued flocking into the school property 30 minutes late and were instructed by officials to run as they were seen walking in to school.
A group of boys were denied entry after they had arrived dressed in incorrect uniform.
One pupil had a pair of brown shoes on while his friends had black sneakers. The group was instructed to go and change their shoes and return.
Girls with fancy hairstyle were given until Monday to have their hair neatly done according to the school code.
School principal Moss Senya said late registration was still a problem as most parents had arrived on Wednesday morning to apply for their children to be admitted.
“We are told transport is an issue for those living in Bramfischerville. However, we are working on it and involving parents to act “ he said.
* Wednesday was a special one for pupils of Pholosho Primary School in Alexandra when they received a visit from Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba were also at the school to offer words of encouragement to the pupils on their first day.
Motlanthe, an ex-pupil of the school, urged the children to study.
“As government we are determined to create an environment in which learning and teaching will be conducive,” he said, telling pupils that if there was anything disrupting their learning they should inform their principal or the Presidency.
Motshekga agreed, encouraging the pupils to learn.
She appealed to the school governing body and parents to monitor the children’s books and encourage them to do well.
Motlanthe was given a warm welcome by the school principal and the pupils, who ululated in excitement as he took to the podium to address them. In a special moment, two pupils were handed brand-new school uniforms as the pupils were told that 200 of them would be getting school uniforms paid for by the Department of Social Development.
One of them was Phindile Mgaga, 13, who said she felt honoured as she was able to shake the hand of the deputy president when he handed her the uniform.
“I am going to learn because I have the deputy president saying we must learn,” she said.
Creecy appealed to parents to approach the district offices, and not schools, when looking for placement for their children.
She said all the province’s 15 districts would have an admission operation centre to deal with placements.
To tackle overcrowding, Creecy said, the department would open four new schools today.
Phahlane said the four schools combined would accommodate 4 382 pupils.
Eight other schools were under construction and would be completed by the end of June, he said.
The school buildings were due to be completed by the end of the first term, in terms of the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development’s plans last year.
Nationally, said Motshekga, the department was ready for day one of schooling.
“We are ready to welcome about a million learners into the education system,” she said.