As pupils in inland provinces return to school on Wednesday the basic education department still has to place 400 000 children for the 2022 school year.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Tuesday 57 schools in Gauteng had been vandalised or needed urgent attention. Some were storm-damaged.
During the briefing, deputy director-general for planning Simone Geyer said many of the 400 000 pupils remained unplaced due to late applications, which delayed the registration process, the difficulty of planning how many pupils needed placement and parents’ preference of English-medium schools.
Motshekga said she was aware that there were pupils yet to be placed in schools because admissions took a year to process. However, for a number of reasons, admissions had spilled over into this year.
“At the moment, Gauteng is experiencing challenges in this regard and we appeal to parents and guardians to cooperate with the district officials to resolve any matter,” she said.
“We have to say upfront that we have been able to place the majority of our [pupils] but [in] provinces like Gauteng, partly Western Cape and some areas in KwaZulu-Natal in urban areas like Durban, we are still dealing with some problems.”
Democratic Alliance shadow minister of basic education Baxolile Nodada said it was a major concern that there was such a large number of pupils who were not yet placed in time for the reopening of schools.
“Schools must fully be opened, including sporting and cultural activities, to avoid the increasing drop-out rates, high pregnancy and GBV [gender-based violence],” Nodada said.
“Secondly, the three provinces must ensure that all [pupils] are placed by 19 January, especially to schools that are close to home, based on their different economic circumstances.”
Nodada said last year some grades had lost more than 40% of teaching and learning time, which had undoubtedly affected pupil drop-out rates and performance.
Meanwhile, the department was unsure how many pupils “might have dropped out of school” since March 2020. It projected the number to be between 150 000 and 700 000.
It confirmed pupil enrolment had increased by 300 000 this year.
According to the Dennilton Educational Movement (DEM), the estimated number of drop-outs was a sign there was something wrong with the country’s education system and measures needed to be taken.
DEM chair Joshua Mahlangu said the nonprofit organisation was calling on the department to change the current education system because out of 100 pupils who started school, only 50% to 60% made it to matric, 40% to
50% passed matric and only 14% went to university.
“According to research by Amnesty International in 2020, children aged nine cannot read for meaning in provinces like Limpopo, which is leading by 91%, followed by Eastern Cape with 85%,” he said.
“The research done by Nic Spaull, a senior researcher at University of Stellenbosch, has shown that SA is the most unequal country in the world, with only 20% of the schools being broadly functional and 80% being mostly dysfunctional.”
Following the introduction of Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (Caps) in 2012, Mahlangu said there was hope that more pupils would be equipped with the skills necessary to sustain life.
“However, we were wrong, because Caps is still failing our pupils and the country, despite its good aims and objectives,” he said.