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Centre for Child Law conducting study that may help end scramble for places

The damaged classrooms at Ntswane Secondary School. Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)

The damaged classrooms at Ntswane Secondary School. Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jan 21, 2019

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BY NEXT year no pupil should be scrambling for school places in Gauteng, the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria has said.

As the public schools calendar enters its third week, the centre said it was concerned about placement shortages. At least 17 000 pupils still need placement in Grades 1 and 8 in the province.

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In this regard, the centre called on the Gauteng Education Department to address this by reviewing its planning process. In line with this call, the centre is also completing a study to highlight the problems faced by the department with a view to finding possible solutions.

In 2016 the centre compiled a report titled Budgets and Bricks: Progress with School Infrastructure. This was to track the department’s compliance with its promises to the Constitutional Court to spend R1.7billion or 40% of its annual budget on building new schools.

The report showed that the department only complied with its promise in the 2011/12 financial year, Isabel Magaya of the centre said.

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By 2014 there was already a backlog of 160 schools or 1500 classrooms. In addition, there was also a shortage of 726 toilets and nearly 500 libraries.

The centre is conducting a follow-up study to assess the department’s ability to provide sufficient schools in Gauteng.

The preliminary research findings found that from 2017 the Department of Basic Education launched its Learner Unit Record Information and Tracing System. This system records pupil data and tracks pupils from school to school, both within and across the provinces.

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The centre said that was a step forward and formed a good basis for planning. But the department does not publish summaries of system data on its website or anywhere else. The centre said it also did not publish any information on provinces’ school infrastructure plans.

According to the centre, there are issues with data collection and management by the department.

Magaya said the most recent data from Snap Surveys on learner numbers was unreliable and thus could not be used as a basis for planning school infrastructure.

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Currently, there is also no available data on school classrooms. Without this it is not possible to determine if there is sufficient learning space in schools in any of the provinces.

The centre said the preliminary research also showed that there was a lack of leadership and oversight in planning and delivery by the Department of Basic Education.

Another problem was that the revenue flowing into the fiscus. The centre said in last year’s budget funds were redirected away from school infrastructure towards higher education. This placed a burden on provincial departments to lower their expectations and extend their planning horizons.

It was found that in light of a reduced budget, the Gauteng department was now concentrating its efforts on adding classrooms and upgrading existing schools. The centre said this was a sensible approach to creating more space, but the spending on building new schools was no longer a priority. The centre however said it noted with appreciation the efforts made by the Gauteng department regarding school placements.

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