Tala Gxoyiya and her children, Hlumelo and Ndalo, get ready to return to school this week. Thobile Mathonsi African News Agency (ANA)
Pretoria - It is back-to-school week and, in spite of complaints about its online registration system, the Department of Basic Education is confident all children going into Grade 1 and Grade 8 will be placed by Wednesday.

Late registration - for those parents who did not apply in time for the deadline last year - will start on Wednesday, and children will be accommodated at schools which still have space.

This process includes appeals by parents who are unhappy with the schools their children were allocated to, and want another option.

There were around 30000 children in Gauteng who had to be placed, but officials worked through the weekend to try to get everything finalised before the bell rings on the first day of school on January 15.

In past years parents would queue outside the school of their choice - often the one closest to their home, or one with a reputation for good results - but in 2016 the Gauteng Department of Education launched its online registration system ahead of the 2017 academic year.

Despite teething problems, Gauteng MEC for Education Panyaza Lesufi insists it is a fairer system and last year the feeder zone area in which parents could apply was extended from 5km to 30km.

This means a child living in Mamelodi can apply to go to Pretoria Boys or Girls High, or one living in Atteridgeville can enrol at Sutherland in Centurion.

This, Lesufi has said, allows for children from all backgrounds to apply to whichever school they wanted to learn at despite their financial status or their residential or parents’ work address.

However,it did increase the number of applications at certain “popular” schools, which were quickly fully subs-cribed.

Not everyone who applied could be accommodated at the school where they wanted to attend.

“As a result of the new regulations, there were appeals by parents who felt the schools allocated to them were perhaps too far, and may not be performing like the others.

“But there is only so much each school can handle,” department spokesman Steve Mabona said.

For example, some schools with space for 250 learners received thousands of applications.

Mabona conceded that the department had to look at building more state schools as areas such as the Centurion corridor and Pretoria east continued their rapid development.

Teachers are back at school from today, and parents were shopping for uniforms and stationery at the weekend. Meanwhile, the department has said everything is on track to start teaching on day 1.

The department said on Friday it was finalising all admissions appeals and parents could expect responses by no later than tomorrow. Mabona confirmed that late registration for Grade 1 and 8 admissions would officially be open on Wednesday and would close on January 24.

During this period, only those schools which still had space would be available on the online system.

He said that upon application, learners would be placed provisionally, but added that parents were still required to submit the necessary documents to the schools allocated within the stipulated time frame.

Mabona added: “Placement at the school will only be confirmed once parents submit the required documents.

"There will be no objections and appeals as there are only limited spaces.

“We are working tirelessly to finalise the outstanding appeals and responses to all those who appealed and wish to assure all parents that all learners will be placed accordingly.

Mabona said the issue of preference of schools had continued to rear its head with the 2020 applications as parents insisted on only wanting certain schools for their children.

These include high schools which traditionally perform well in the matric (NSC) exams and those with good sporting programmes.

In announcing the Gauteng provincial 2019 matric results last week, Gauteng Premier David Makhura said the Department of Education would soon release a performance report on public primary schools in the province.

This will help improve learning and teaching in the foundation phases.

With regards to continued complaints and frustrations voiced by parents regarding the Gauteng online system’s efficacy, Mabona said nothing could be further from the truth.

He said the system was working well, its only issue being capa- city because of the large numbers involved.

He said that even though the new regulations created some challenges, the department had managed it better this time around. “Last year we needed to handle about 20000 learner.

"So this year should be even bigger and we anticipate an increased number of roughly 30000 learners who we will need to place, and we will.”

According to the Child Gauge report (2018), almost all children of schoolgoing age in South Africa, or around 11 million, were in school the previous year.

In addition, more children had access to pre-school.

The National Development Plan states that by 2024 there should be two years of compulsory early childhood development for all children before they enter Grade 1.

Pretoria News