Western Cape accommodates over 1.2 million pupils in schools

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Over 1.2 million pupils in the Western Cape returned to or started their schooling year. More than 3 000 learners are either in the process of being placed or waiting for positions at schools following very late applications.

The province had a budget cut of over R700 million, resulting in less schools built and teachers employed as it had initially planned for. This amidst an influx of around 18 000 new learners into the Western Cape every year. At Westcott Primary School in Diep River, the first day of school was a breeze for most of its grade ones.

“It’s very cool to come to big school because it feels like it’s a dream and I’m still at home. Why does it feel like a dream? I don’t know…is it fun…yes…why is it fun…I don’t know, it’s because I’m in a new class because the last time when I saw my class, I had a different classroom to my new classroom and it’s making it even better in grade one,” says grade 1 learner Hannah Rhode.

And despite initial doubts, some youngsters were pleasantly surprised.

“Where you scared to come to school today…no… why?…because my daddy told me it won’t be that scary…and, was he right? yes…in what way was he right, what was it like? It was like eating jelly…why is it like eating jelly…because it’s easy,” says another grade 1 learner Nicolas Josephs-John.

The provincial department of education was set to build 20 new schools to keep up with the ever-increasing demand. But after budget uncertainty and a major cut midway through planning, it had to adjust.

“It caused us to have to defer 10 school builds to the next financial year and the negative of that is of course to make the admission pressure much more acute. So, we still do have learners that are in the process of placement but the department is committed and the coming weeks to working hard to find places for all our learners,” says Western Cape Provincial Minister of Education David Maynier.

Ten days after schools starts, a survey is done to determine where spaces are available and will assist in the placement of learners. Following the budget cuts that was initially allocated for health and education, the province has declared an Inter-Governmental Dispute with national government.

“The money does not follow the feet of the learner so there are learners sitting in our schools where the funding for those learners are going to other schools in other provinces and that just cannot be. We’ve got to get that to change, and we’ve also got to say you must stick to the contract so that’s why we have IGD, we want our R1.1 billion as a province,” says Premier Alan Winde.

Winde says it’s hoped the mediation process which will follow soon will deliver positive results but if needs be, the courts could be approached over the two-third loss of budget.

Video: Back to School – W Cape welcomes over a million learners back, faces budget constraints: