‘Just chill’ as Gauteng goes back to school
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Gauteng schools are ready to hit the ground running, as thousands flood into classrooms on Wednesday – many for the first time.
This was the word from Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, who disclosed on Tuesday that the provincial authorities had received about 20 000 applications even at this late stage of the game.
Lesufi was speaking at Boitumelong Secondary School in Tembisa during a media briefing on the Big Switch-On project and the province’s readiness for the 2015 academic year.
He had a stern warning for parents who had applied late and did not have a place for their children in Gauteng’s public schools.
They “must just chill”, he said, and accept the fact that their children will not be placed in their preferred schools. They had to co-operate with district officials whose duty it was to place pupils wherever there was space available.
Lesufi assured all parents who applied on time that their children would be placed accordingly, and late applicants had to accept where they were sent.
“All parents who applied on time, their children will get a teacher, they will get a desk, they will get the stationery that is needed and textbooks. We are ready for our learners,” he said.
“By today, the (number) of late applications we received was about 20 000. I want to put it on record that we are going to place those who applied on time first. Those who applied late, we have until the end of January to place them, so they must chill. We’re not going to allow the system to collapse just because people didn’t adhere to the deadline,” Lesufi said.
He said the provision of study material and, where necessary, state-funded transport and school feeding schemes would be delayed for late applicants as resources would have to be reallocated.
Lesufi said parents who were still trying to find a place for their children must not go to schools, but should go to district offices, which had been turned into late-application centres to process placements.
He said that apart from processing the late applications, the province was ready to hit the ground running with the 178 222 Grade 1 and 8 pupils entering the system.
He also briefed journalists of Gauteng’s Classroom of the Future project, which was to be officially launched on Wednesday morning during the Big Switch On.
The pilot phase of the project would see classrooms in seven schools across the province go “paperless”, and pupils and teachers would have uncapped internet connection and use state-of-the-art technology instead of chalk and books.
Lesufi said the department was still assessing whether it would be financially viable to roll out high-end equipment in the rest of the province. If this happened, the whole project would cost the provincial government R17 billion over a five-year period.
In Boitumelong Secondary alone, the price tag was R7 million. This cost covered the equipment and teacher training, and beefed-up security measures.
First in line to be overhauled as the project rolls out were schools in rural and township areas and those that had a 100 percent matric pass rate.
Lesufi said the schools in which the project would be rolled out would have a technician on site who would provide help and support where necessary. All the province’s 77 000 teachers had been trained in information and communication technology and subject content.
The department had also partnered with the police and an armed security company to protect the new equipment, Lesufi said.
He revealed there had already been attempted break-ins at two of the seven schools. In both cases, the robbers were unsuccessful.
The project was rejuvenating interest in township schools, most of which are not filled to capacity, as parents battle for limited space in suburban schools.
The department had recorded an increase in applications in schools earmarked for the projects, said Lesufi.
All kids must be placed
The department is obliged by the constitution to ensure that all children are placed in school. Even though late-comers may not find a place at the school of their choice, they will be placed somewhere.
For parents whose pupils are returning, no school is allowed to chase away pupils who owe school fees from the previous year(s). The school management, the parent/ guardian and school governing body must work out a payment plan in line with the law, and this process should not affect the child’s education in any way.