Stress a common emotion among parents trying to get their child into school of their choice
It’s not that simple anymore. I remember my sister camping out with other parents at the high school in Joburg she wanted her son to attend, queuing for 12 hours through the night to ensure he was on the A-list.
Three years later, when it came time for his sister to join him, the Gauteng online system had been introduced. My sister was up early to get logged in and select the same school, but instead she was offered a place at an Afrikaans school some distance from where they live.
My sister is nothing if not persistent so she got her daughter into the school of her choice, but not without a lot of stress.
Stress seems to be a common emotion among parents trying to get their child into a school of their choice. At the office, I have watched as colleagues apply, fill in forms, and then wait for the all-important SMS offering them a place.
Last year two colleagues living in the same suburb and with daughters at the same primary school, had their heart set on my alma mater. One got in; the other did not.
This year, another colleague applied for his son to go to a good high school, attended over the years by many of the sons of staff members, but he was not offered a place in the first round.
What to do? Accept what is offered when it is not what you feel is best for your child, or forfeit that in the hope that a better option becomes available?
This week we have reported on the pressure felt by parents who did the online application but whose children have not yet been placed in Grade 1 or Grade 8 for 2020. According to the Gauteng Education department, 161244 applications were received for Grade 1 and 149106 for Grade 8.
The placement period for admissions was due to close on October 31, but a day before the deadline there were around 77000 parents who had neither accepted nor declined placement offers and it was extended.
Like another colleague with a child going to Grade 1, some of these parents were offered a different school for one child than another, or not the one closest to their homes.
All parents want the best for their children, and some are unhappy with the quality of the school they have been allocated.
Parents got an SMS to say district offices would be open on Sunday to deal with the problems. Imagine dropping your plans to go, only to find lengthy queues and officials unable to help. Some reportedly fainted in the heat while others - like the women who called in to Radio 702 - were reduced to tears of frustration.
Many have urged the department to scrap the system all together and go back to the old way of applying via the school of choice.
Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said on Twitter that the “majority of our ‘good schools’ are full” and the department is trying to find “proper alternatives”. He said everyone who has applied would be helped with placements finalised by the end of November, allowing parents enough time to buy school uniforms.
In a media briefing on Monday he claimed Gauteng was actually ahead of other provinces with its preparations for the 2020 school year, including hiring teachers and ordering textbooks.
He urged parents to accept offers and not leave it until the new year to find a place for their children, making a promise that no child would be without a school.
Whether or not that is the school of choice for parents is another matter entirely.