NATIONAL NEWS - The class of 2020 has to accommodate nearly 23 000 more learners in Western Cape schools than last year, putting immense pressure on the system.
The overwhelming majority of the first time registrations are from the Eastern Cape - 14 904 learners or 87%.
This is according to a WCED’s SNAP survey, completed by schools and districts annually on the 10th day of the school year to assist the Department with the allocation of further resources for the year.
The current total enrolment for 2020 is 1 077 927 - an increase of 16 848 from the 2019 total, leaving 6 027 learners unplaced as at 30 January. The greatest increase in enrolment is in the Cape Metro North and Metro East districts.
According to the department this number is changing constantly. “We are placing learners every day, but we are also receiving new late applications. Our district staff are using all their resources to find extra space for learners wherever it can be found,” says Kerry Mauchline, spokesperson to Minister Debbie Schäfer of the Western Cape Ministry of Education.
“The reality of the situation is that taking the number of placed and unplaced learners together, we have nearly 23 000 more learners in Western Cape schools than we did last year. To accommodate these learners, we would have to build 23 new schools just this year, let alone what we need to provide for the accumulated backlog.
“This is impossible given our current budget and the country’s perilous fiscal condition. We simply cannot keep up with the demand, and the situation is likely to get worse as more of our budget is cut by the national government diverting funds to SAA and Eskom.”
She says the WCED appreciates that parents, teachers and schools are frustrated. “We are also frustrated. It is not that we do not want to allocate extra teachers and build new schools. We are simply unable to without money.”
She says the department is doing everything it can to ensure that every learner finds accommodation. “We have appealed to schools to try to find extra space where they can, to ensure that as many learners as possible can get started with their school year. We are in the process of opening up 70 classrooms and allocating teachers to them over the course of this coming week.
"There are also still some learners being assessed for Special Needs intervention, which might open up some spaces in ordinary schools - however, these spaces are not necessarily where the greatest demand is.”
Mauchline says they can only hope that the national government will realise that delivering a quality education for every learner in the country should be a national priority, and is a far more valuable investment than bailing out corrupt and failing SOEs.
“Until it does, problems of overcrowding and teacher shortages will just get worse, to the detriment of our teachers and our children.
“We call on all role-players to assist us in preserving what we have, making every rand go as far as possible, and making whatever contribution they can to our education system, as we need all hands on deck to ensure ongoing quality education for our future leaders.”
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