Hundreds of grade one and grade eight learners have yet to be placed in class — a month after schools opened.
It has become a yearly occurrence that provincial education departments battle to find space for grades one and eight learners citing, among other issues, learner migration, lack of space to build more schools, growth in certain areas, late applications and parents wanting their children to be placed in certain schools as some of the challenges they face.
A day before schools were opened on 15 February, the department of basic education’s director general, Mathanzima Mweli, shared in a presentation that, nationwide, 16 117 grade eight learners and 8 982 grade one learners still needed to be placed in schools.
The Mail & Guardian sent questions to all nine provincial education departments regarding learner placement. The provinces of Limpopo, the Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and the Free State said all learners had been placed in schools, but some said the last batch had only been placed two weeks ago.
Steve Mabona, spokesperson for the Gauteng education department, told the M&G this week that statistics on the placement of learners have not been updated. At the year’s start, there were 917 grade one and 1 484 grade eight learners that were yet to be placed. According to Mweli’s presentation, the Gauteng department of education was due to place all learners by the end of this month.
North West education department spokesperson Elias Malindi said 14 244 grade one learners had been placed in schools, but failed to say whether all the 1 276 grade one and 2 188 grade eight learners who were not in class at the start of the school year had been placed.
The KwaZulu-Natal education department was yet to place 19 grade one learners and 12 grade eight learners, with the Free State yet to place 168 grade eight learners.
In the Western Cape, 663 grade one learners and 2 863 grade eight learners were unplaced.
The spokesperson for the Western Cape education department, Bronagh Hammond, said there was no time frame for when all the learners would be placed: “Even now, we are getting new late applications.”
A Western Cape father, Angus Norkie, told the M&G this week that his son had only been placed at a school last week even though he had applied for space at different schools since March last year.
However, Norkie said he was likely to take his son out of the school next year because it is an Afrikaans-medium school. It is only dual-medium in grade eight and nine and from then on classes are conducted only in Afrikaans.
He said the issue with all the schools they had applied to was that there was no space or they were rejected because they did not live in the feeder area.
“The issue with ‘white’ schools in the Western Cape is that they do not want to place black people in their schools, and that is the feeling I got from one of the schools I applied to.
The excuse that these schools have been using for many years is that you do not stay in the feeder area. You need to buy a R4-million house to stay within the feeder area, which is ridiculous,” said Norkie.
He suggested to one of the schools that he rent a house closer to the schools when he was told he does not live in the feeder area, and he never received feedback from the school again.
Provinces such as the Western Cape, Limpopo and Northern Cape say they have had to procure mobile classrooms in order to accommodate new learners. In the Eastern Cape and Free State, meanwhile, learners were placed in schools with low enrolment figures.