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Teacher unions slam NC Education dept

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“Online school admission system a total flop”

Education MEC Zolile Monakali. Picture: Supplied

TEACHER unions in the Northern Cape have blamed the provincial Department of Education for forcing thousands of children to miss out on crucial learning time.

The SA Democratic Teaches’ Union (Sadtu) and the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU) said on Thursday that the department’s online admission system, which was launched last year, was a “total flop”.

The provincial secretary of Sadtu, Palesa Nqumashe, said the current placement challenge the Province is experiencing would have been easily sorted out if the department had not “dragged its feet” and had its house in order.

“It is a sad and disturbing situation that parents are now stuck with children at home, a week after schools opened for the new academic year. We have hundreds of Grade R and Grade 8 learners who have not been placed. Those children are missing out on crucial learning and are being left behind,” said Nqumashe.

“The online admission system was opened in September last year and parents did their part by applying online. However, the department made a mistake by going full-blown with the online registration process. They should have started with a pilot project first and then let the other schools continue with the manual way of registrations.

“The department did not consider the space available at schools nor did it consider how many parents have applied at a certain school. The department also did not communicate properly with principals as the district offices handled the online applications. The principals did not know how many parents had applied at their schools. Those logistics could have been easily solved if they had left some schools to do admissions manually.”

Nqumashe said the department had had ample time to deal with the admissions challenge.

“The department should have compiled its data before the children returned to school. They should have gone to the schools and met with principles and thoroughly gone through the applications.

“Teachers returned to the schools on February 1, 2021 and the department should have concluded their admission process before the academic year began.

“If they have thoroughly examined the applications, then they would have picked up that there is a crisis as parents applied last year already. They had time to deal with the applications but left it to the last minute.”

She added that the placement of learners is not the only problem the department is “disregarding”.

“We are in a pandemic and might be hit with a third wave of the coronavirus in the coming months. Last year there were numerous schools that were closed due to Covid-19. However, if we still have learners stuck at home when will they catch up to their peers when the schools close. We always encourage teachers to start teaching from the first day of school. So those children will have the pressure of catching up with the curriculum.”

Nqumashe said the department must ensure that it has adequate resources and staff to address the issue.

“The department must ensure that they not only have mobile classes to host the learners who are seeking placement, but also have the staff and teaching available in order for those learners to continue with their schooling. There needs to be sufficient teachers and additional teaching staff to assist in the challenge.

“We have also noticed that the capacity at the district offices is a challenge. There needs to be more official appointments for district officers. The department’s failure to fill posts at district offices can also be part of the challenge they are facing currently,” said Nqumashe.

City parents protest outside the Department of Education’s district office in Kimberley. They have been waiting since September last year for their children to be placed. Pictures: Danie van der Lith

The provincial secretary of the SAOU, Henk Brand, said the online admission system was a “short-lived joy”.

“We were excited about the online admission system and so was the department, however, it appears that the system did not work effectively. We had children who were placed at four different schools and parents who did not accept or decline placements,” said Brand.

He said the department is currently just “flooding” schools with learners seeking placement in an attempt to “dodge the problem”.

“The department is currently putting pressure on the schools to accept the learners who still seek placement. We have schools that have 40 learners cramped into one classroom just because they were accepted by the department. The department did not take the capacity of how many children can be accommodated at a school into account. The school principals and teachers are now left to deal with overcrowded classrooms.”

Brand sad the matter can be addressed if the department can upgrade the schools in some residential areas.

“The department must ensure that schools in areas such as Roodepan, Galeshewe and Greenpoint are utilised to their maximum capacity and that those schools have adequate resources to conduct teaching. We have noticed that those schools are not utilised to their maximum capacity. If the department properly resources those schools then there will not be this problem,” said Brand.