WESTERN CAPE NEWS - School administrations closed on Friday (6 December) with some parents still looking for places for their children in school.
Officials of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) will work closely with schools when they reopen in January to assist these parents.
Schools finalised promotion, progression and transfers in and out of schools during the final weeks of the 2019 school year. This helped to identify some available places.
However, the reality is that the majority of Western Cape schools are now full and popular schools still have long waiting lists.
We appeal to parents to keep their children in their current schools next year if they still plan to change schools and have not managed to secure places in new schools.
This applies to parents in the Western Cape and those in other provinces wishing to enroll their children in Western Cape schools.
Parents may have to wait weeks or even months to find places in schools in the Western Cape, if they do not already have places.
While we have planned thoroughly for growth, subject to available budget, we have reached our capacity for the new year.
Any new applications will be problematic. This is a difficult message for me to convey. However, this is the reality we are facing.
The learner population in the Western Cape continues to grow dramatically, due to continued inward migration and high retention rates in our schools.
While we build up to six new schools a year and expand others, this is not enough to meet the rapidly growing learner population. The budget simply does not allow us to build all the classrooms and employ all the teachers we need to accommodate this growth.
This should not come as a surprise. We have raised this concern for many years. I have made repeated appeals to the National Government for more funding to meet this very real demand. Unfortunately, these appeals have gone unheeded.
The reality of the situation we are facing is apparent in the graph and statistics below:
The total number of Grade 1 to Grade 12 learners has increased by 141 044 learners since 2011. This would have required 108 new schools housing 1 300 learners each, in order to accommodate this increase.
Reasons for the increase in numbers include increased retention rates and inward migration of learners from other provinces.
Learners come for better education opportunities or follow their parents who seek employment.
The WCED has to stretch existing resources thinly over the whole system. The strain this places on our schools is immense, and the sad reality is that we do not receive the relevant per learner funding that we should receive, to accommodate and adequately resource the increased number of learners within the system.
The decrease in real terms in our budget allocations has resulted in class sizes that are too large, and insufficient funding means that we cannot provide additional teachers and the classrooms which we so desperately need.
It is NOT a case of bad planning. Provinces, unfortunately, have very little capacity to raise our own revenue, and we are dependent on National Treasury for our allocations.
In addition, the nationally negotiated compensation of employees increases every few years has a devastating impact on our budget, because the national government does not provide the money to the provinces to pay for what they had agreed to, which is almost always above what we have budgeted for.
Whilst failing SOE’s like Eskom and SAA receive constant bailouts, we, who provide one of the most important public services for our country’s future, have been informed that further drastic budget cuts are looming.
How can we afford additional teachers, classrooms and schools when we do not have the means to pay for them?
It is difficult to tell what the projections for next year in terms of overall learner numbers will be.
So far, projections for admissions to Grade 1 and Grade 8 project increases in learner numbers in 2020.
In Grade 1, the projected learner numbers are approximately 107 000 as opposed to 104 336 learners in 2019.
Similarly, in Grade 8, the projected learner numbers are 89 000 for 2020. In 2019, there were 85 771 learners in Grade 8.
Recently we have seen the challenges that the Gauteng Department of Education is facing with regards to their own admission numbers. They too have seen massive population growth in their province and are facing similar challenges when it comes to accommodating learners.
I must however make it clear that the WCED online system differs greatly to that of Gauteng. The Gauteng system places learners at a specific school once the parent has applied.
In the Western Cape, parents can apply to a variety of schools and the system acts as a tool to process applications so that governing bodies can select applications according to their own admission policies. This process is closed. Our system was also only piloted this year, and not at every school.
It will always be our aim to ensure quality education for every learner, in every classroom, in every school in this province. But we must also be aware of the strain that this is placing on our teachers as they will once again face increased class sizes in 2020.
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