6-year-old Kenia Mudzuli is gearing up to start school in Grade 1 today. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency(ANA)
Pretoria - Parents north of the city whose Grade 1 and Grade 8 children were by last night yet to be placed in schools have resorted to taking matters into their own hands.

A public meeting outside the Akasia Hall late yesterday resolved that the affected parents should take their children to schools of their choice when schools reopen today.

This is in protest against a decision by the Gauteng Department of Education to place their children in schools outside their residential areas.

The meeting had been convened by EFF leader Thabo Mothelo, who painted a bleak picture of the controversial online schools application system introduced a few years ago and manned by department officials.

Anger filled the air as parents expressed their frustration with the school application process for the two grades in the province.

Mothelo said: “The EFF has met with the parents in Akasia and we are frustrated about the online system and its administration.

“We have heard reports that there are fraudulent administrative processes conducted on the system and that officials are allegedly asking for bribes from parents to gain advantage over other parents.”

He said parents would this morning take their children to Hoërskool Akasia, which was their first preference.

“We are going to ensure that learners have access to education. Tomorrow (today), we as the EFF are going to challenge the system.

“Our view is this system must fall. It may be used for administrative purposes by the department to make sure they know how many Grade 1 and Grade 8 children they have, but further than that we don’t see its purpose except to frustrate parents,” Mothelo said.

Those at the meeting expressed their dissatisfaction at the online schools applications, claiming it was riddled with fraud.

Some parents claimed their identities were used fraudulently to accept the placements of their children at faraway schools.

Parents were in agreement that they would today dress their children in uniforms of schools of their choice and drop them off there.

Others have suggested that the department must re-channel a budget set aside for transporting children to schools outside the area to purchase mobile classrooms.

Mothelo said: “My understanding is that parents who are here didn’t choose to be frustrated; you didn’t choose this system.”

He said the system was not endorsed by the national Department of Basic Education, but it was only operational in Gauteng. Mothelo said the system had in fact benefited private schools because some parents had resorted to taking their children to private schools due to frustration.

One parent said: “I stay in Orchards and my child has been accepted in Atteridgeville.

“I don’t remember accepting a space online for my child. It means somebody used my password to accept a space on my behalf. This is fraud.”

Others lamented that the department took time to respond to appeals about placing their children where they didn’t want them to attend school.

“They said it would take 21 days to attend to our appeal but I am now counting two months since I have lodged my appeal,” another parent said.

According to the parents, Hoërskool Akasia accommodated more children from Soshanguve and other neighbouring areas than those in the immediate vicinity.

Mothelo agreed and added that almost 70% of children in Akasia were being placed in schools far away from the area.

This was not acceptable.

This sentiment was shared by another parent at the meeting, who complained about the fact that her child had been placed in Atteridgeville, which would be an huge inconvenience for her.

At the meeting was a resident who claimed to be an employee of the provincial Department of Education, but had attended as a concerned individual.

The resident claimed that department officials were indeed accepting bribes to in order to give preference to certain parents when it came to the applications.

Pretoria News