CAPE TOWN - It is all systems go as around 1 million pupils in the province get ready to attend their first classes of the 2022 academic year and, if indications are anything to go by, things should run smoothly for the most part.
However, the persistent headache of overcrowding remains, as the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) continues to grapple with late applications and an influx of pupils from other provinces.
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said the number of unplaced pupils in the province who applied in 2021 had reduced to 469 Grade 1 learners and 2 620 Grade 8 learners.
This is in comparison to last month, when 4 624 Grade 1 learners were unplaced, and 8 765 Grade 8 learners were without schools.
The figure could change, however, as late applications are still being received.
“We are also fighting a moving target, given that every day we are receiving more late applications from learners.
Over 32 000 late applications have been received thus far, which makes planning very difficult,” Hammond said.
Basic Education Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said for the most part it had been smooth sailing, after schools in inland provinces opened last week.
"The first few days have gone well. Learners are in class and teaching is happening in the majority of schools.
“There are a few challenges in certain areas where there are learners still unplaced. In the Free State, floods have halted schooling due to damage caused,” he said.
For two parents, the countdown to the 2022 academic year has been stressful.
Faith Bezuidenhout, a single mother of two, said she had been back and forth to the Education Department and various high schools, trying to find a school for her son.
“I have been applying to different schools since July of last year and have not even receive one response,” she said.
Bezuidenhout said her son, who was starting Grade 8 this year, attended primary school in Beaufort-West, where his first language was Xhosa.
“The schools I applied to said they only had Afrikaans classes available, as the English classes were full, but he is not fluent in Afrikaans. If I were to put him in an Afrikaans class he would fail continuously.”
She hoped her son would get into a school in the Elsies River area.
“The problem is I don’t have money for transport and expensive school fees as I am not working currently and depend on his Sassa grant.”
Bezuidenhout said she went back to the WCED on Friday and was told to return in the first week in February.
Until then, her son would not attend school.
Gwenneth Williams said the stress of taxi fare was weighing heavily on her finances as her two children were attending school far from home.
“I don’t have money for transport. “It’s costing me R1 200 a month for both children. My son is in primary school and his school fees are R800. My daughter, who is in high school, has school fees of R2 200.
“If I include the taxi fare, it is costing me too much as a single parent.
“The schools I have applied to in Delft are within walking distance.
“The closer they are to home, the better for me.”
Williams said she was left with no choice but to leave her children at the schools they were currently enrolled in.
Teacher union Naptosa executive director Basil Manuel said schools were somewhat ready, but not completely.
“If we look at the coastal provinces, in KwaZulu-Natal there are teacher posts that haven’t been filled on time.
“In the Eastern Cape there is a saga involving writing material and textbooks, but there have also been severe storms and bad weather, which have affected the schools.
“In the Western Cape, not all learners have been placed.
“Readiness is a large issue, and when it comes to the role the department is playing, it is not always up to speed,” said Manuel.
Rotational learning was a problem due to Covid-19, he said.