Late applications hamper efforts to place pupils

Sinenjongo High School had received 1077 Grade 8 applications for about 450 spaces, according to provincial education department spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond. Picture: Natasha Lassen

More than 300 children from Phoenix, Joe Slovo Park, and Dunoon have been unable to find school placements in time for the start of the new academic year, says a community activist.

Sibongile Kofi showed Tabletalk a four-page list of names of children aged 6 to 17 whom he said he had been trying to find places for at various schools.

“I have also been applying to schools online on behalf of the families and children because they do not have internet access, and some parents, grandparents, and guardians do not know how to work a phone and laptop.”

Mr Kofi said the education department “had more than enough time” to build a new school in the area or add classrooms to existing schools.

On Monday and Tuesday, he had visited Sinenjongo High School, Inkwenkwezi High School and Marconi Beam Primary School with some of the children and their parents but had been turned away, he said.

Sinenjongo High School principal Khuselwa Nopote said the school had received 1000 applications but could only take 450 pupils.

“It seems that parents have not yet learned the importance of applying for schools for their children in time,” she said.

Sinazo Mknyana, who moved from the Eastern Cape to Joe Slovo in 2022, said she had applied at Marconi Beam Primary School in 2022 for her twin boys and had unsuccessfully re-applied last year for them to start Grade 3 this year.

“My boys have only finished Grade 2 and were home last year. They are 10 years old now and need to get education. I don’t have money for taxi and bus for my boys to go elsewhere. This is the only solution,” she said.

Amanda Ndiya said she had applied online to various schools but was waiting for space at Sinenjongo High School so that her daughter could start Grade 8.

When Tabletalk called the principal at Marconi Beam Primary School on Monday morning, she was busy with parents, and a teacher who did not want to be named spoke to us.

“The parents of these children lie. They have late applications, which have not been sorted before the start of the new school year and now want everyone to feel sorry for them,” she said.

She said the school could accommodate more children in grades 1 to 3 but there was no spaces for grades 4 to 7.

Dunoon community activist Rabi Mjele said he was only showing interest in parents who were “sure and serious” about getting their children into school.

“Some parents have given up hope and believe that the education system does not care about us. But some parents just don’t care. Some of their children have dropped out and want to return back to school but they are not willing to assist their kids,” he said.

Western Cape Education Department spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond said they were helping all parents with placement options even though they might not be their first choice.

“We recommend that parents take up the offer of placement as there is no guarantee that they will still get into their first school of choice. Schools are currently full, and it is only if a learner doesn’t arrive after the 10th school day that they can deregister that child and a space becomes available.”

The department was looking at all options to build new schools in Dunoon and Joe Slovo Park, she said.

“Our main challenge is the availability of land to build new schools in the area. We have explored various options and are still trying. However, it is extremely limited, particularly with the growth of illegal and informal settlements.”

She confirmed that Sinenjongo High School had received 1077 Grade 8 applications for about 450 spaces and Inkenkwezi High School, 897 for about 400 spaces.

“It is possible that the same learners could have applied to both schools and other schools in the surrounding areas,” said Ms Hammond.

The department was struggling to place pupils at schools as a result of extremely late applications, she said.

Ms Hammond said the department was looking at ways to add extra classrooms at schools around the province, including at Sinenjongo and Inkwenkwezi high schools, but it also had to contend with a R716 million budget cut by National Treasury.