THE Western Cape Education Department has set aside R2.65 billion to address the annual scramble to get all pupils placed in schools as over 12 000 are yet to be accommodated.
With the late application rush expected in January, the WCED said it was putting measures in place including providing seven new schools and more than 800 classrooms.
Department spokesperson Kerry Mauchline said over a third of the money (34.9%) would go towards employing more teachers, while more than a quarter (27.5%) had been allocated to build new schools and additional classrooms.
The remaining portion will be set aside to be used for the Presidential Youth Employment Initiative for teacher assistants, for Early Childhood Development, conditional grants, and for a number of smaller interventions.
The department this week presented its ambitious plan to build schools and accommodate pupils to the legislature’s standing committee on education.
In terms of the plan, the WCED aims to deliver 842 additional classrooms, with at least 26 000 places for pupils in the province.
This is 290 more classrooms than what has been provided over the past two years.
The programme, together with various stakeholders, aims to develop and build six schools within six months to accommodate up to 3 200 pupils.
In its report to the committee, the department said that in previous years it had to reprioritise budgets to fund the provision of water tanks and boreholes to reduce the drought risk, as well as provide masks and other protective materials during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This financial year, however, has seen a significant budget increase from previous years, with additional funding being allocated towards infrastructure delivery,” the report states.
The allocation will allow the WCED to continue projects that had been suspended due to budget cuts, as well as increase the number of classrooms at schools.
“We are grateful for the assistance of partners like the City of Cape Town in overcoming some of the challenges that we have previously faced in building schools,” said MEC David Maynier.
Of the 842 additional classrooms, 164 have already been completed, with 510 expected to be ready by January next year, and the final 168 by March.
Earlier this year the department also announced the appointment of 1 143 additional teachers.
The department said the teachers will be allocated to schools in preparation for the completion of additional classrooms.
Education activist Hendrick Makaneta said the increase in financial allocation for school infrastructure in the Western Cape would go a long way to alleviate pressure and assist in the placement of pupils on time.
“However, priority should be given to schools in townships as there is a greater need there than in suburbs,” he said.
“The (MEC) should put in place monitoring mechanisms to ensure that there are no delays in the improvement of infrastructure and building of more classrooms."
Andre de Bruyn, chairperson of the Education and Allied Workers Union of South Africa, said they welcomed the commitment to infrastructure development and increases to teacher posts.
He however challenged the department to deal with the maintenance of schools burdened with overcrowding due to placement woes, and called for technological upgrades in order to eradicate inequalities in education.
“There was no talk of permanent security, no programmes to upgrade facilities in order for the learners to compete on equal footing, especially where there is strained and exhausted resources experienced at township schools.
“We need to eradicate educational inequality. We need to do away with elitism and get equity among all schools,” he said.
De Bruyn said all schools should take unplaced pupils.
ANC spokesperson for education in the legislature Khalid Sayed, said the party welcomed the additional funding.
“[A total of] 26 000 extra seats in schools is a good thing, so we are welcoming it. However, what makes us sceptical is that the WCED is known for underspending its budget, so we will keep our eyes on this. However, it is a step in the right direction.”
Sayed said they were bothered by the fact that the department didn’t touch on their long-term plans to address pupil placement challenges.
“We didn't get a sense of the long-term plan to plan for population growth, so those plans about the increased budget are well and good, but they cannot address the issues of inconsistencies when it comes to the admission of learners at schools,” said Sayed.