Dozens of Thembelihle kids not in school yet

About 40 Thembelihle children have been denied access to schools because of the Gauteng education department's incompetency, their parents said.

"We put our children's names on the waiting list but then we come here and the principals tell us they are waiting for permission from the district office," said parent Amanda Moloi.

Parents from the township, south west of Johannesburg, have been trying to enrol their children in five schools in the neighbouring suburb of Lenasia since the first day of the school year.

Moloi was forced to send her son, who is in grade two this year, to a school in Soweto last year because of the same problem.

"I can't afford [the] transport [costs] anymore," she said.

Organiser in the Thembelihle Crisis Committee, Nhlakanipho Lukhele, said: "These are parents some [of whom] have children in grade one or grade eight, who mostly have registered in time for these schools but they are still turned away."

"This problem happens every year."

Access to schooling in the area has been a longstanding problem with the Mail & Guardian first reporting on the problem in 2005. At the beginning of 2013, the M&G reported that over 50 Thembelihle children were still not in school three weeks after the first day.

Lukhele said the blame lies with the department as well as the five schools in the area.

"Some schools charge fees and others are no-fee … The ones that charge are prioritising children from Soweto because they think those parents are more likely to pay the fees than the Thembelihle parents."

Attempts to get comment from the schools were unsuccessful.

'Figure out a way'
"The Gauteng education department and the district office must figure out a way of how to squeeze those kids into school. But they are not doing anything. Even if parents register their children too late, they still have a right to go to school," he said.

Different schools gave different reasons for not admitting children, he said. Some said their classes were full, others said they were waiting for instruction from the department.

Another organiser on the committee, Bhayiza Miya, said one school was turning children away because they were unable to speak English.

"As we speak people at the school are busy conducting interviews with the children to see if they can speak English. That is illegal. We have seen three children just today turned away because of this."

A parent of one of these children, Precious Mathiba, said her grade three son was turned away minutes before she spoke to the M&G.

"They say he does not understand English. This thing is painful. It's not right. We [are] all trying to find a school for the children but it is too heavy to find one," she said.

The department did not respond to the M&G's questions at the time of going to print.

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Victoria John
Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011.

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