“Annually, the number of applications would vary around 20,000, but this year the figure significantly increased to just over 40,000, which explains the current situation of unplaced learners.”
THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Education indicated that the number of school admission applications have doubled for this academic year.
Hundreds of parents made their way to the Office of MEC of education including the department’s district offices in search of placement for their children.
Some parents burnt tyres outside the district offices in Kimberley on Thursday morning to demonstrate their frustration with the placements.
Department of Education spokesperson, Geoffrey van der Merwe said there are more than 2 000 learners who still need to be placed in schools.
“The latest figures indicate that 2 592 learners still require school space, which are in the main for Grade R, 1 and 8 in the Frances Baard District. The department is working around the clock to secure school space for all learners of school compulsory going age in the next couple of weeks,” van der Merwe.
He said the department had a huge influx of applications.
“The Northern Cape Department of Education introduced the Online Admissions System last year and it has proven to be functioning very well. However, the department has seen a significant increase in the total numbers of applications in comparison to previous years.
“Annually, the number of applications would vary around 20,000, but this year the figure significantly increased to just over 40,000, which explains the current situation of unplaced learners.
“In addition to this, 30% of learners never returned to school after the nationwide lockdown last year and were considered as school drop-outs. The department is relieved that most of these learners returned to school and are taking up their space in schools,” he said.
Van der Merwe said the economic impact of Covid-19 on some residents have also played a role in the challenge of placements.
“We received a significant number of applications for learners which were in private schools, where parents are unable to afford the school fees anymore.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has further impacted on the completion of infrastructure projects, in the form of additional classrooms to create additional school spaces for learners.
“We have also received a number of applications from learners relocating from other provinces and districts, requiring school spaces particularly in Kimberley. These and other factors have contributed to the situation we are confronted with in the Frances Baard District,” he said.
Van der Merwe said the department is currently assessing alternatives in order to accommodate the learners who still need to be placed.
“The department met with school principals last Sunday and Tuesday in Kimberley to assess the additional available school spaces and to accommodate the unplaced learners.
“The department is currently making alternative arrangements to secure the delivery of mobile classrooms to address the placement of Grade R, 1 and 8 learners, as schools have reached their maximum capacity in Kimberley.
“The Department has also engaged with School Governing Bodies (SGBs) on Thursday and Friday to mobilise further buy-in from these school structures.
“We are pleased to announce that we are finding common ground and we are hoping to finalise this process very soon.
“We will also prioritise the construction of at least two new schools specifically in Kimberley, which will be able to absorb this significant increase in learner numbers. We appeal to parents to remain calm and patient whilst we are trying our utmost best to amicably resolve the unfortunate situation,” van der Merwe said.