Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

Overcrowding in public schools has become a national problem, says Motshekga

The minister says overcrowding in public schools has added to the challenges faced by Gauteng with its online admissions system.

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says overcrowding in public schools, especially in urban areas, has become a national problem that government is dealing with.


Motshekga on Wednesday visited Cosmo City Primary School, west of Johannesburg, to monitor the reopening of schools inland provinces.

While thousands of school pupils in the Free State, Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga returned to the classroom for the 2023 academic year – some children will not be as fortunate to exercise their right to education.

ALSO READ: Over 290 000 Grade 1 and 8 pupils already placed in schools – Gauteng Education

More than 1 300 pupils in Gauteng were yet to be placed in schools as the provincial Department of Education grapples with its online admissions system and overcrowding in schools.

Motshekga said the school placement challenges in Gauteng did not come with the introduction of the online admissions system.

She defended the system saying it was assisting in identifying pupils who did not have any placements.

“I know the problem of admissions; it didn’t come with the online applications. Even when I was the MEC [of Education in Gauteng] we used to have problems in placing children.

“At the time, there was no ICT [Information and Communications Technology] programme to tell us where are the spaces and learners… this online system helps us to really have a clear system for admissions. It is just that perhaps we have more overcrowding [and] more problems,” said Motshekga.

Overcrowding in public schools

The minister said Cosmo City Primary School, like many schools in the province, was having challenges with overcrowding in classrooms.

Motshekga said her department was working with National Treasury to address the challenge of overcrowding.

“We also have a national programme where we are working with provinces to make sure that we can assist them with overcrowding.

“Overcrowding in schools has become a national problem in all our urban areas and we have agreed with Cabinet and Treasury that we must get money to deal with overcrowding in schools because it’s going to undermine everything that we do,” she said.

The minister assured parents that the 1 394 children who remain unplaced in Gauteng would be assisted within 10 days.

Role of parents in education

Meanwhile, Motshekga urged parents to take note of their responsibilities when it comes to their children’s education.

She requested them to be involved in their children’s learning and to work together with teachers.

The minister thanked the principal of Cosmo City Primary School and the teachers for taking care of the institution’s infrastructure.

She said she opened the primary school back in 2007, when she was the MEC of Education in Gauteng.

“I want to thank you because I came to open this school and I’m still proud that you kept it as it is.

“I opened this school in 2007, with the then Premier of Gauteng Mbhazima Shilowa, when I was the MEC of Education in the province. And we’re looking at building another school. We can’t be overcrowded with more than 1 000 learners, it’s just unworkable.”

Motshekga also wished the teachers and pupils a successful academic year ahead.

She said the foundation phase of teaching was critical for developing pupils’ reading and writing skills.

“This is the most important phase in our education. If we missed it here, we’re gone,” said Motshekga.

Schools in coastal provinces will open next week on 16 January, with pupils going back on 18 January.

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