Education is crucial to give every child the necessary tools to succeed in life. People have an inherent need to learn. However, everyone is unique and they don’t learn in the same way (Grosser & De Waal, 2006).
In recent years, the challenge of overcrowding in public schools has reached alarming levels, leaving many schools and provinces struggling to accommodate the influx of Grade 8 student applications.
Parents are stressed to find a school for their children, as public schools struggle with severe overcrowding. The issue has left many Grade 8 students in limbo, awaiting placement in educational institutions that are bursting at the seams.
Steve Mabona, spokesperson for the Gauteng Department of Education, highlighted the department's current ordeal in a recent interview. “We've had a deluge of applications – 152,681 for Grade 8 alone this year,” Mabona said.
Yet despite the sheer volume of applications, hope is not lost for the 1,158 Grade 8 students still without a school.
“We're doing all we can, even aiding those with incomplete online applications, and sifting through thousands of appeals,” Mabona said in a statement released by the Department of Education last January.
In response to the admissions crisis, the Gauteng Department has taken the notable step of funding the construction of over 800 additional classrooms in 297 schools. Additionally, efforts are being made to open one new primary and three new secondary schools within the year.
Meanwhile, the Western Cape has also been proactive in tackling the same issue. To meet the needs of 26,000 additional learners, the province has committed to building 842 classrooms for the 2023 school year.
This bold move resulted in the successful placement of over 50,000 more Grade 1 and 8 learners compared to the previous year and the planned appointment of up to 1,143 more teachers.
Chris van Niekerk, Managing Director of Abbotts College, spoke on behalf of concerned parents, saying, “Since the year's start, we've received countless distress calls from parents desperate to secure a place for their children in Grade 8.”
Van Niekerk emphasised that alternative educational paths exist and urges parents to consider them without preconceived notions on affordability or practicality.
This challenging situation sheds light on the ongoing struggle within the education system to provide adequate learning environments for the youth — a struggle that both provinces are striving to overcome through increased infrastructure and resource allocation.
He says while this problem might seem insurmountable to parents, there are other options available which should not be dismissed out of hand because of perceptions about, for instance, affordability or logistical concerns.
“There are many, many parents and students finding themselves in this predicament. While provinces scramble to make alternative arrangements to accommodate Grade 8 learners who have not yet been placed, parents may be rightly concerned both by the clock ticking on their child’s plans for 2024, as well as concerns about the standard of teaching and learning they might encounter under potentially unusual classroom conditions should they be accommodated under temporary arrangements.”
“It's tough out there,” Van Niekerk acknowledged, “but parents still have choices.”
He urged families not to lose heart during this tense time.
“For those parents caught in the waiting game, or looking for a different solution, it's time to explore all possibilities,” Van Niekerk advised.
He suggested that alternatives might be closer and more fitting than families realise, potentially leading to a satisfying resolution for both the child and the parents.
Parents are being encouraged to keep an open mind and investigate non-traditional options, which might include private institutions or alternative learning programs, as they navigate this difficult period in the educational landscape.
These options include:
Private schools with a reputation for quality education and smaller class sizes can provide a more personalised learning experience.
The idea of “private school” is often dismissed out of hand because of perceptions about affordability, however before eliminating this option, parents should contact potential schools and at least enquire whether it would not be within their means to send their child to a private school.
Some parents explore the option of homeschooling, ensuring direct involvement in their child's education and tailoring the curriculum to individual needs.
There has been an explosion in homeschooling in recent years, with countless resources available to parents who opt for this route.
Exploring online education platforms can be a viable alternative, especially in today's digital age, offering flexibility and personalised learning.
It is important to establish the credentials of an online school before signing up with one, but schools such as, for instance, Evolve Online School, have an excellent reputation both for academic excellence as well as non-academic and holistic development of students.
And, UCT Online High School has a nominal application fee of R350, which will ensure your child has a place at an online high school, either as a first option or as a viable backup for public or private school.
“Every child is entitled to a quality education. While we understand the challenges schools and provinces, in particular the Western Cape and Gauteng, face with overwhelming student numbers, parents are not entirely powerless.
“This situation is undoubtedly placing immense pressure on families, but it is important to understand and investigate options,” explained Van Niekerk.
He added: “In addition to not being placed, other students find themselves in a situation where they have been placed at schools that were not part of their consideration list or, for practical reasons, simply would not be a fit.
Common issues such as distance from home and transport problems can significantly impact the selection of an ideal educational institution. Considering these challenges, it may be prudent for parents to consider private education as an alternative.
“While we know this may not be an option for all families, schools such as Abbotts College, which are committed to providing a positive and enriching educational experience have become a lifeline for thousands of families who previously didn’t consider private education a viable option.”