Parents queue outside Education Department offices to find placement for their children

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Parents have been queuing outside the Gauteng Department of Education district offices, south of Johannesburg, since the early hours of Monday morning, desperate to find schools for their children.

Scores of parents have been left frustrated in Gauteng as their kids are yet to be placed for the 2022 academic year.

The education department has an online portal for grades one and eight placement. However many parents are yet to receive feedback.

Gugulethu Seema is one of the frustrated parents waiting in the queue.

“I’m here to find out if the schools we have applied to are accepting her because we are literally left with 2 days till the schools open. I need to know what I must do with my kid because I’ve bought uniform and stationary. Everything is sorted. But she’s sitting at home frustrated without knowing where to go. It’s frustrating. We have applied online, the first time the system crashed. We reapplied; it went through but we still waiting for an answer.”

Parents converge at the Gauteng Department of Education district offices: 

Parents gathered outside schools and department district offices in and around Gauteng to demand placement for their grade 1 and 8 children.

For parents like Zweli Nhlapo – his child was placed, however, it was at a school east of Johannesburg, while they live south of the city.

“We can’t get a space and we applied online. The last time we were here, they said we must come back today, now they say we must come back on Wednesday. And the thing about online is not good. Other parents can’t go online. I’m pleading with the Minister or MEC Lesufi to try and do something about this online. Parents are packed here and they cannot get space. We applied last time online and we are told the child has been allocated to Bedford and we are here in Ridgeway so then they have to do something about it.”

With less than 48 hours till the school year is expected to begin parents are still seeking placements for the children. In the south of Johannesburg, concerned parents converged at the Gauteng Department of Education district offices.

Geographical area

In Pretoria, a group of disgruntled parents gathered outside the main entrance of Hoerskool Theresa Park in Pretoria North. They’ve accused the school of prioritizing admission for children living outside the school’s geographical area. Lerato Radipape is one of the concerned parents.

“I’m very much frustrated, so much frustrated because my child is sitting at home and doesn’t know which school she’s going to. Her peers are all going to private schools. Now because I cannot afford a private school now I must suffer. My child must be placed 12 kilometers away from home and I must suffer with transport. I must also worry about my child’s safety while there’s a school next to my home. What’s the point of having to apply online if my child is still going to suffer in January? Let’s go back to queues which the old system so at least I know where my child is going come next year.”

Nick Mokone, who has been to a number of schools in the area in an attempt to secure a place for his son, says even at the district offices parents have been left frustrated.

“Very chaotic we went there very early in the morning. The officials stood on the other side of the gate while we are on the other side of the crowds. All of us were shouting our concerns and everything and trying to solve them by saying go back to our nearest school where we stay. We not receiving any help. The pressure is put back at the schools.”

Thousands of online applicants successfully placed

The Gauteng Department of Education says 276 564 Grade 1 and 8 online applicants have been successfully placed at schools for the 2022 academic year.

Gauteng Education Department spokesperson Steven Mabona explains, “Our officials are implementing means of providing necessary support to schools to ensure that the 1 465 applicants who remain unplaced are accommodated in due course. The Department has also identified more than 17 000 applicants who did not submit all the necessary documentation. However, the system is currently open for them to upload and choose available schools. The Department has also prioritized the finalisation of 866 appeals received since the placement period.”

The buying of uniforms and stationery has been put on halt as some parents were told to wait until Wednesday to find out which school their children have been placed in so they can begin their primary or high school academic year.

Capacity in schools

Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshegka says the department plans to negotiate with the cabinet on increasing capacity in schools. Motshekga says the department prefers to fully go back to school and live side by side with COVID-19 pandemic but discussions with the cabinet and the department will determine a way forward. The Minister has assured parents that the department is doing all that it can to address concerns of space and placements.