Fears matrics may join #FeesMustFall

12/01/2016. Striking general workers contracted to private companies hired by Unisa and the University of Pretoria were dispersed by police using stun granades in Hatfield. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

12/01/2016. Striking general workers contracted to private companies hired by Unisa and the University of Pretoria were dispersed by police using stun granades in Hatfield. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Published Jan 13, 2016


Johannesburg - As 100 000 children enter the Gauteng schooling system on Wednesday, many others in higher grades are planning to abandon classes to join the #FeesMustFall movement.

This worried Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, who was on Tuesday not only grappling with the headache of 16 864 children who were not yet placed in schools across the province, but matric pupils who planned to join mass students protests currently sweeping university campuses across the country as well.

At a media conference on school readiness on Tuesday, Lesufi said: “We are anticipating that during the FeesMustFall campaign, some student movements want to encourage our matriculants to join those protests.

“We are working very hard with the student leaders to say let’s allow our matriculants to remain in class and learn rather than be part of protests.

“We understand that this will benefit them in the long run, but we believe that organisations in the higher education institutions can attend to that matter appropriately.”

The #FeesMustFall protests started at institutions of higher learning on Monday, with students calling for the scrapping of registration fees and historic debt, among other things.

But while Lesufi agreed that “indeed these fees must fall”, he said matric pupils “must be in the classroom, and we can take up the responsibility”.

Wits University under lockdown

“I am persuading our student bodies and I am glad that we are starting to reach consensus that we will represent them where we need to. For example, if there is going to be a march about fees must fall, I will be there and join that march,” he said.

Congress of South African Students (Cosas) president Zama Khanyase said the organisation was part of the movement last year that took part in protests, but they had not yet decided on the extent of their participation this year.

“We support the call for free education but are against police brutality and students themselves engaging in violent protests. We don't agree with students disrupting the academic year. In terms of our involvement this year, we are waiting for direction from Sasco (South African Students Congress) on the issue,” she said.

Thousands of pupils not yet enrolled

Regarding readiness for the first day of the 2016 academic year on Wednesday, Lesufi said they expected the number of children who were yet to be placed in schools to increase to about 20 000. The number stood at 16 864 on Tuesday.

He said a total of 138 820 applications for Grade 1 enrolment were received and that 116 49 of them have been placed.

For high school, 101 592 applications for Grade 8 admission were received and 87 015 of them have been placed.

Lesufi said the biggest problem areas were Johannesburg central and east, as well as the west and south of Tshwane, with over 10 000 children still not placed.

To deal with the problems, the department will speak to single-medium schools to open their classrooms and accommodate pupils.

Schools have been asked to admit an additional five pupils in each classroom to mitigate the lack of space in grades 1 and 8.

In some cases, a Grade 8 class will be created in primary schools on a temporary basis and additional temporary classrooms will be sent to some schools.

“Where we have learners we can’t place, we will request that there be two shifts. We will have learners placed in one shift and learners coming later and use the school as a learning area.

“This will be the last resort. We prefer children to be on the school premises rather than at home. We prefer overcrowding until we have sorted the space constraints. We believe they are safe and better off there,” Lesufi said.

He added that because of the late applications, there would be a shortage of textbooks.

“With new parents applying, there will be learners with no learning material. We are 100 percent on order for those who applied on time. It is only the 16 000 that applied late that we must go and reorder for. The process will take us to early February,” he said.

“There was also a backlog of furniture, but so far we have procured more that R59 million for furniture in both primary and high schools,” said Lesufi.

On Wednesday, eight new mainstream schools and 17 schools for learners with special needs will be opened. For placements, parents are encouraged to contact district offices instead of going to schools.

[email protected]

Pretoria News

Related Topics: