After almost two years, the Gauteng education department has expanded the province’s feeder zones for schools in a bid to address apartheid spatial planning.
Feeder zones are the geographical areas from which a school admits learners.
Before a unanimous Constitutional Court judgment in 2016, the default feeder zone was a 5km radius. Pupils applying to a school who lived within 5km of the school, or whose parents worked in the area, would be placed on list A. Those applying to the school but who lived outside of that radius would be placed on list B.
The Constitutional Court ruled in favour of Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi, saying that the MEC would be responsible for determining the feeder zones of all schools in the province.
The MEC was ordered by the court to determine the zones within 12 months, but was then granted an 18-month extension. On Thursday Lesufi announced that all schools in the province would now have a feeder zone of a 30km radius, instead of just 5km.
Remedial schools and institutions dedicated to sport or the performing arts don’t have to comply with this regulation.
The feeder zone was determined with the aid of a task team consisting of department officials, representatives of school governing body (SGB) associations, advocacy group Equal Education, the premier’s office and the municipal demarcation board.
“Feeder zone determination plays a significant role in ensuring that access to our schools is fair, transparent and conducted in an equitable manner,” Lesufi said. “Our schools cannot justify any form of discrimination against any learner.”
Lesufi has given the 2 067 schools in Gauteng, which are distributed between 15 feeder zones, 30 days to dispute the announcement. He added that only 334 schools had contested the proposed zones, but their concerns had since been addressed.
Lesufi announced that, as of Thursday, 264 344 pupils had been placed in a school for next year, out of 282 823 applications from April this year, which means that about 20 00 pupils still need to be placed. Of that number, 18 480 have unverified documentation or have forfeited their admission to a school.
Feeder zones will be reviewed every three years and, in the event that a new school is built, all the schools in that area will have their feeder zones reviewed.
The initial dispute about schools’ feeder areas began in 2011 when the MEC drafted amendments to what would become the Regulations Relating to the Admission of Learners to Public Schools published in 2012.
The Federation of Governing Bodies for South African Schools — a national body of SGBs — had taken issue with the amendments, arguing that the amendments were inconsistent with the Schools Act and provincial law.
These amendments meant that a school must admit pupils without discriminating against them, gave the MEC the right to determine all schools’ feeder zones, and allowed the district director to place “unplaced” pupils in any school that is not full.
The role of the district director to place these pupils came to a head at the Constitutional Court in 2013 in the matter between the MEC and the school governing body of Rivonia Primary School.
Rivonia Primary School had refused to admit a grade 1 pupil in 2011, stating that the school was full.
The court ruled in favour of the MEC, finding that, because every child had the right to basic education in terms of Section 29 of the Constitution, the department of education has the final say on how many pupils are admitted to a school.