*Nosipho Zethu’s child will have to travel more than 40km between his home and his new school next year.
To make things worse, this was not one of the five schools she was presented with as her options when she applied online for her son’s placement in Grade 8 next year.
Zethu was not familiar with the Gauteng education department’s revised policy that the placement of pupils could be done at schools up to 30km away from their homes, and even further, in contrast to the 5km radius stipulation in place in previous years. She was also not aware that her child was not guaranteed placement at one of the five school options presented to her. She was still considering other options this week, including taking her son to a private school.
The department received 310 350 applications for 2020. By Wednesday, 250 309 had been placed. Of those placed, 134 680 are in Grade 1 and 115 629 in Grade 8.
There were 26 869 pupils still looking for spaces in Gauteng, while 27 563 parents had not submitted all of the required documents online. Authorities plan to place the remaining pupils at the end of this month. However, those parents who have not yet applied at all would not be assisted until all the otherapplicants had been placed.
Steve Mabona, Gauteng education spokesperson, said parents who found themselves in a similar position as Zethu could take up their case with their nearest education district department to find a solution.
If they were not satisfied with the outcome to their objections, they may appeal. Forms to do so were available online.
Mabona said one of the reasons why parents were unable to get their children placed at one of the five school options presented to them were the criteria followed by the department.
This entailed placing pupils at a school:
- Closest to their homes first;
- If they have siblings at the school;
- If their parents work in the vicinity of the school;
- If they live within the 30km radius; and
- Finally, beyond 30km.
The criteria were informed by the 2020 admissions policy, which was administered under the new regulations and feeder zones policy. The policy stipulates that a parent can apply for their child to attend any school, but placement depends ultimately on available space and the capacity of the school.
Mabona explained some of the difficulties encountered in trying to fulfil the placement requirements. For example, if a parent living 6km from a school has another child at the school already, that parent has to be accommodated under option two, even it means not accommodating another child whose parent had selected that school as one of their five options. “That is why sometimes it was difficult to accommodate a child in even a 30km radius,” he said.
Mabona said parents who were reluctant to accept the alternative schools offered to them because those closer to them were full, were the biggest challenge in the system.
This was common, Mabona said, in developing areas and some old areas in the province, where the department had not built new schools in recent years.
In the Western Cape, education MEC Debbie Schafer said, projections for Grade 1 and Grade 8 showed increases in pupil numbers next year.
“In Grade 1, the projected pupil numbers are approximately 107 000 as opposed to 104 336 pupils in 2019. Similarly, in Grade 8, the projected pupil numbers are 89 000 for 2020. In 2019, there were 85 771 pupils in Grade 8,” she said.
Schafer said their online system was different from that of Gauteng. “The Gauteng system places pupils at a specific school once the parent has applied. In the Western Cape, parents can apply to a variety of schools and the system acts as a tool to process applications, so that governing bodies can select applications according to their own admission policies. This process is closed. Our system was also piloted only this year, and not at every school.”
She said education district departments were opened to assist parents who required placement for 2020.
*Not her real name
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