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Parents slam dept’s school options

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"The department was “discriminating” against their children by only giving them options of “academically substandard” schools, instead of allowing them to the schools of their preference"

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THE PARENTS of dozens of pupils who are still awaiting placement in schools in the Northern Cape has lashed out against the Department of Education for “discriminating against their children” by only making provision for them at “academically substandard” schools.

While the Northern Cape Department of Education (NCDoE) at the weekend indicated that all Grade 1 and 8 pupils would be placed in schools by today, parents were still scrambling to get their children into preferred schools.

NCDoE spokesperson, Lehuma Ntuane, said that while no more places were available for Grade R pupils at schools and parents were advised to contact community-based centres, about 60 grade 8 pupils, who were still not placed, were given the option of four schools in Kimberley.

These schools include Floors One and Floors Two High Schools, Homevale Secondary School and William Pescod Secondary School.

However, parents have dismissed the four options, claiming the department was “discriminating” against their children by only giving them options of “academically substandard” schools, instead of allowing them to the schools of their preference.

One father, who was still trying to get his Grade R and Grade 8 children into schools after already missing the first three days of class, said the two children had not been placed for their grades, despite having submitted their applications on time last year.

“Last Monday, I and many other parents, approached the District Office for feedback on our applications. We were referred to the MEC’s office for a letter that indicated the outcomes of our appeals. Upon arriving there, it was another fruitless exercise as no such letter was available for some parents, including myself.

“I was asked to come back the next day. When I arrived on Tuesday, we were referred from one official to another including been addressed by the Head of the Ministry. We were informed that no progress was made and that we need to go to the District Office the next day.

“On Wednesday the person responsible for the placements at the District Office changed his tune, saying that it was no longer necessary for letters from the MEC because they had all the pupils’ details on the system. This, in despite of his insistence on Monday that the letter is needed to ensure placement.

“On Friday, after again visiting the District Office, the department contacted me and gave me the options of four schools in Kimberley where place was still available,” the father said, again reiterating that he had submitted applications for placement in time.

He added that the options for placement were “completely unacceptable” as these schools “were academically substandard and known to lack discipline”.

“My daughter scored exceptionally high marks during her Grade 7 exams and was hoping to get a placement at Kimberley Girls’ High School. The department’s criteria for placement is discriminatory and does not address historical injustices. We are now considering applying to a school outside the Province, in an attempt to get my child the best education possible,” the father said.

Ntuane responded by saying that the department could not guarantee that children would be placed at the schools of their preference.

“We must indicate that since the schools reopened, we have received more than a hundred new late applications, which is a clear indication that parents are not fulfilling their primary responsibility.

“We have indicated from the onset that we won’t be able to guarantee parents a school of preference. Our district offices have contacted parents to provide alternative placement to pupils. We further encourage parents to work with us to speedily resolve the placement of pupils. We cannot turn a blind eye to these applicants, as education is a constitutional right,” Ntuane concluded.