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A million learners enrolled in Cape schools while over 6000 remain unplaced

MEC for Education Debbie Schäfer has revealed that schools in the province have seen an increase in enrolments compared to that of 2019. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

MEC for Education Debbie Schäfer has revealed that schools in the province have seen an increase in enrolments compared to that of 2019. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Feb 4, 2020

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Cape Town - The Western Cape MEC for Education Debbie Schäfer has revealed that schools in the province have seen an increase in enrolments compared to that of 2019.

Schäfer said that she has received the results of the Western Cape Education Department's (WCED) SNAP survey, which showed that the total enrolment for 2020 is 1 077 927 – which constitutes an increase of 16 848 from the 2019 total. 

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The SNAP survey is completed by schools and districts annually on the 10th day of the school year to assist the Department with the allocation of further resources for the year.

"The greatest increase in enrolment is in the Metro North and Metro East districts," said Schäfer.

 "A further 6 027 learners are reported as being unplaced as at 30 January 2020. This number is changing constantly. We are placing learners every day, but we are also receiving new late applications.

"Our district staff are using all their resources to find extra space for learners wherever it can be found."

Schäfer explained that the overwhelming majority of first time registrations are from the Eastern Cape (14 904 learners or 87%), which presents added strain for the province as the budget for these learners does not follow them to the Western Cape until "much later, if at all, making planning and provisioning very difficult".

"The reality of the situation is that taking the number of placed and unplaced learners together, we have nearly 23 000 more learners in Western Cape schools than we did last year. To accommodate these learners, we would have to build 23 new schools just this year, let alone what we need to provide for the accumulated backlog," said Schäfer.

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"This is impossible given our current budget and the country’s perilous fiscal condition. We simply cannot keep up with the demand, and the situation is likely to get worse as more of our budget is cut by the national government diverting funds to SAA and Eskom.

"The WCED appreciates that parents, teachers and schools are frustrated – we are also frustrated. It is not that we do not want to allocate extra teachers and build new schools. We are simply unable to without money."

Schäfer added that nonetheless, the province will do everything possible to ensure that every learner finds accommodation. 

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"We have appealed to schools to try to find extra space where they can, to ensure that as many learners as possible can get started with their school year. The results of the SNAP survey are used to fairly allocate the extremely limited resources and teaching posts where the need is the greatest. With increases in learner numbers of up to 23 000 learners, this is a serious challenge.

"We are in the process of opening up 70 classrooms and allocating teachers to them over the course of this coming week. There are also still some learners being assessed for Special Needs intervention, which might open up some spaces in ordinary schools – however, these spaces are not necessarily where the greatest demand is," said Schäfer.

"We can only hope that the national government will realise that delivering a quality education for every learner in the country should be a national priority, and is a far more valuable investment than bailing out corrupt and failing SOEs.

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"Until it does, problems of overcrowding and teacher shortages will just get worse, to the detriment of our teachers and our children."

Cape Argus

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