Hundreds of children from Joe Slovo and Dunoon have been left without a school, and their parents say more schools need to be built in the neighbourhoods.
Parents gathered outside Sinenjongo High School last Thursday said their children had failed to get into a school. Some said Sinenjongo had been their last hope and they feared their children would miss a full school year.
Sinenjongo High School principal Khuselwa Nopote said some parents had underestimated the demand placed on the school and had failed to register their children in good time.
“We’ve had around 400 applications for this year, and that was just for Grade 8. Unfortunately, we could only take 180 of them. Even in the higher grades, there’s less children we can take because of the demand. People are still of the belief that as our children advance further in their high school career, inevitably, there will be more of those that drop out. But our drop-out rate has decreased over the years and that means we retain a lot more children nowadays. Right now, we sit with 263 Grade 12s.”
Several parents Tabletalk spoke to blamed the education department for not building enough schools.
Asanda Mjele, of Dunoon, said she had applied for her son to do Grade 8 at Sinenjongo because she believed it could give him a bright future.
“Over the last few years, I’ve noticed the pass rate and the quality of passing at the school by their matriculants. I want my son to also have that opportunity. But now we sit here without a school. My son deserves a chance just like every other child,” she said.
Joe Slovo community leader Mzimkhulu Sopeni is helping parents who have been unable to get their children into a school.
“Last week Friday, we went to the education department offices in Parow to ask for clarity and how parents should proceed. The turn-out showed us what we’ve always known: there’s a great need for school facilities in this area,” he said.
Phatiswa Ngcobo, from Joe Slovo, said she had applied with her son’s June report for a place at Sinenjongo for Grade 8, but he had not been accepted.
“I understand that last year was a crazy year for everyone, especially for our children. That stop-and-start thing they were doing has affected our school systems. But it doesn’t change the fact that we have been wanting another school in this area for a long time. At least another school that would take children from this area,” she said.
Amanda Ndileka said she could not afford to take her daughter to schools other than Sinenjongo and Inkwenkwezi high schools in Dunoon.
“I live in Joe Slovo, and it would be more convenient for me to send my daughter to Sinenjongo because it’s so close to where she lives too. Inkwenkwezi also wouldn’t be so much of an issue because she can easily get transport there and back. But I can’t afford to take her anywhere else. I beg the department to find a solution for us, so that we can help our children get an education.”
Western Cape Department of Education spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond said they were aware of the high demand for schools in the area.
“We have engaged with the community and appealed for calm. While we are very aware that parents are anxious about getting their children into schools, we are investigating various scenarios. This area has expanded rapidly over the past years, and demand for high school placement is particularly high,” she said.
Ms Nopote said that because of Covid-19 schools had to use more classrooms to encourage physical distancing among pupils.
“We currently have six Grade 12 classes. We now have to halve each class and separate them into 12 classrooms. It’s creating a nightmare in terms of space in our school. To mitigate this, at least we are helped because not all the schoolchildren come to school at once. Monday it was the Grade 8s and 10s and then Tuesday it’s the Grade 9 and 11 classes. We are trying as best as we can,” she said.
She added that both Sinenjongo and Inkwenkwezi high schools were fed by four primary schools – Marconi Beam Primary in Joe Slovo and Dunoon, Silverleaf and Sophakama primary schools in Dunoon – which placed a lot of pressure on them to accommodate all the pupils.