Pupils should not have to wake up before dawn to travel to distant suburbs to get what is perceived to be a good education, or at least a better education, than they would receive at their neighbourhood school. But the realities of apartheid spatial planning and the legacies of former model C schools continue to inform a daily migration for thousands of schoolchildren.
Children as young as seven are up at 4am, squeezed into minibus taxis that transport them to former model C schools. Along the route, they will pass many primary schools with dwindling numbers of enrolments or that have closed because there are not enough children to teach.
All this is a result of parents seeking a better education for their children, an education they do not think is available in the townships.
The ideal, of course, is for schools in townships to offer the same quality of education as a former model C school.
But just getting children enrolled at these former model C schools has been difficult for most parents because, for reasons such as being able to afford school fees or because they don’t live within a 5km radius of the school, they are blocked.
In Gauteng, parents have had to lie and produce fake residential addresses or apply using friends’ addresses to get their children into these schools. Others have had to use their work addresses to enable their children to be enrolled.
Now the new feeder zone regulations the Gauteng department of education will implement in two years’ time mean parents won’t have to lie about where they live to get their children admitted into these schools. Parents won’t have to transport their children to other areas because the schools in their neighbourhood only teach in one language.
These regulations will give preferential rights to pupils to attend the school closest to them, no matter whether they apply first or last, as long as they have applied during the admission period.
Pupils who live within a 30km radius of a school will be admitted to the school as long as it has space.
This is a revolutionary step in the right direction by Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. It will ensure that public schools are opened to every child in the province who wants to attend them and that quality education does not benefit only people who can afford it, speak a certain language or have a certain skin colour. It is a logical step towards ensuring quality education for all.