Gauteng officials ‘delay’ learner placements while colleague attends a funeral
Angry parents say officials at the education department’s Gauteng West district office refused to help them on Tuesday because their colleague, who had been assisting them, was at a funeral.
Two parents, who asked not to be named for fear of their children being victimised, told Daily Maverick they were sent from pillar to post during a visit to the offices of the department of education’s Gauteng West district on Tuesday.
They said officials refused to assist them in placing their children because the colleague who was dealing with them was away attending a funeral.
The parents said they had been spending more than R50 a day in taxi fares travelling between Kagiso and the district office since schools reopened last week.
One parent said she had been trying since last year to find a space for her daughter to begin Grade 8. She said her daughter attended Dr Yusuf Dadoo Primary in Azaadville, which is located near Ahmed Timol Secondary School.
Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Oh, all the schools are full’ – The frustrating wait for a place in class is real
The parent said the high school informed her on Monday this week that she needed a letter from the district office.
When she arrived at the office, an official contacted the high school to confirm that there was space for the daughter.
“He was on speaker and the school said there is space. When we asked for the letter, he said ‘no, come tomorrow (Tuesday) because the printing office is closed’.”
She said the school told them on Monday where to buy the uniform and that books would be provided.
“The school said all that was needed was a letter to say we’ve been to the district office, and then you come and we give you the books and the stationery list and you go buy the child’s stuff.
“The child could have been going to school on Wednesday. At the end of the day, this is what leads to dropouts… and then they blame the parents,” she said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Matric dropouts — Department of Basic Education doth protest too much
She explained that they were not fighting with the authorities.
“If they say there’s no space, we understand. You can’t pressure a teacher to teach more children than they are required to teach. But please think of us if you feel you can squeeze in a child.
“You also have to think about teachers. When there are 50 children in a class, a teacher needs to know each learner. We are not saying they must put pressure on the teacher, but they must also accommodate us. Now they are just ducking and diving.”
A second parent said she had been visiting the district office since September last year and was told to return on 11 December 2023 since they had applied late for placement.
When she arrived, she was told that the online system was down.
“We had to call the department. It was their closing week. The offices and schools were closing in the same week. I was told to come on 10 January. Then I was told to come on the 12th. I was told to come again on the 15th because the administration office was not open,” she said.
She said the office was packed with other parents and their children on 15 January.
“We had different issues. With me, since I know that I’m late on my side, I needed any school around Randfontein. My sister is deceased and I’m raising her children under foster care. They said I just have to wait… we are still here.”
She said the treatment she received at the district office had been “horrible”.
“The kids are getting grants. You can’t be saying my child must go to Mohlakeng. We are not staying in Mohlakeng. It’s very far and there will be transport issues.”
She said the grant from the department of social development was not enough.
“Look at her shoes,” she said, pointing to the learner. “I still have to buy her new school shoes and a uniform. But we don’t have a clue where she is going to be placed.
“When a child goes to a new school and is not at the same level as her peers when it comes to things like a uniform or decent shoes, that is going to lead to bullying.”
The Gauteng education department’s Steve Mabona had not responded to requests for comment at the time of writing.
Daily Maverick visited four other offices among Gauteng’s 15 district offices on Tuesday to see if there were similar issues on the placement of children.
There were no queues at the Johannesburg West District office in Florida, Johannesburg North District office in Braamfontein, the Gauteng education headquarters in Johannesburg and the Ekurhuleni South District office in Springs.
However, there was a trickle of learners who were there with general queries about their matric papers.
Education spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said they were still waiting for the survey data for their latest figures.
She said the department was trying to place more than 2,000 learners.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Western Cape Education Department strives to place 2,500+ learners as new school year begins
“Obviously these figures are fluid as we place more learners and more come in,” Hammond said.
She said they continued to receive late applications every day. This number had increased since schools reopened.
“The greatest demand continues to be in the metro education districts, especially for Grade 8. The data will give us a better indication of the system as a whole.
“We appeal to parents for patience as we work to find a suitable place for every learner. We understand that this is an anxious time for parents, and we are leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to finalise all placements,” she said.
Education department spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said learners were being placed because there was enough space for them.
“A new school has been opened in Buffalo City metro that can accommodate 160 Grade 8 learners in 2024,” Mtima said.
Read more in Daily Maverick: At least 1,000 embattled learners still struggling to find placements in Eastern Cape schools
Mtima said there was no pressure on new schools to accommodate learners in 2024 and that all learners could be accommodated in the existing schools.
“Parents are cooperative… they understand existing protocols and are complying. The province has never had a situation where we have learners who could not access schooling,” he said.
Education department spokesperson Geoffrey van der Merwe said the admission of learners was continuing, with the bulk of placements taking place in the Frances Baard district.
“The number of late applications has increased from last week from 1,302 to 2,067. This represents 1,231 applications for Grade R, 335 applications for Grade 1 and 501 applications for Grade 8,” Van der Merwe said.
“According to the online admission system, we now have a total of 26 unplaced learners from the Frances Baard district. We hope to conclude these placements within the coming days,” he said.
“With the limited available school spaces, we cannot guarantee preferred placements at any of our schools,” he said.
In Limpopo, education spokesperson Mike Maringa said they were finalising placements in the Capricorn district.
Education officials in KwaZulu-Natal, Free State, North West and Mpumalanga had not responded to questions about learner placements at the time of writing. DM