/ 15 January 2020

Ring the bell: School is back in session for the 2020 academic year

Studies show that investments in primary and secondary education will not see the intended returns if children do not enter school with the foundational skills needed to learn.
The Basic Education Law Amendment Bill has been tabled in parliament. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

Provincial departments of education have reiterated their readiness for the 2020 academic year. As such, teaching and learning is expected to commence today — on the first day of school. All nine provincial departments say the majority of teaching and learning material has already been delivered to schools, and most placements, particularly for new students, have been taken care of, alleviating the threat of day one chaos.

Basic education minister Angie Motshekga is in Bela-Bela, Limpopo at Hector Peterson Primary school where she is monitoring the commencement of the academic year and will also be meeting with the school management to discuss challenges at the school. 

Deputy minister Regina Mhaule meanwhile is visiting Hanenview secondary school in Pinetown in KwaZulu-Natal. 

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for education, Kwazi Mshengu, has said that the province will welcome 2.8-million learners at its 6 000 schools. 

The province is starting the year on a difficult note after 144 of its schools were damaged by storms since November 2019. 

Mshengu added, however, that teaching and learning will take place at these schools today after the department has provided it with mobile classrooms and said plans to rebuild them were at an advanced stage. 

“We want to ensure that there are no disruptions that hamper learning and teaching in our schools in this academic year,” Mshengu said. 

He said the province has fulfilled 100% delivery of textbooks and learner and teacher support material, adding that district offices are on standby should there be any additional requirements. 

In Mpumalanga, the department has placed 96% of learners but some learners in grade 1 and 8 have yet to be placed in school. However, the department hopes this process will be concluded by Friday. 

In a statement the provincial department said these outstanding placements are in the fast growing towns such as Mbombela, Emalahleni and Steve Tshwete municipalities. 

“The department requests parents to appreciate that some schools are full therefore [they] must accept the decision to admit some children in schools where there is space… Parents who did not receive acceptance letters will be contacted this week,” departmental spokesperson Jasper Zwane said. 

While in Gauteng the department has said that from today until January 24 it will open its online application system for grade 1 and 8 learners for late applications. The online system which the department introduced in 2015 has been a nightmare for most parents and until yesterday some were complaining that they had not received spaces in their choice of schools. 

However, MEC Panyaza Lesufi has been adamant that parents should accept placement where their child has been allocated space. 

For late applications the province has said that districts offices will assist parents with applications. But the department has firmly said that no objections or appeals will be entertained for late applications. 

According to a statement by the department there are only 912 primary schools and 374 high schools that still have space for late applications. 

Because of challenges with space in schools, the department has said that it is finalising a partnership with Curro schools where the private school will accommodate learners at its schools. 

“These were looked at in line with the fee structure of Curro schools compared to that of public schools, which in principle will be a discounted fee. The distance between the Curro schools and the public schools, and the possibility of using scholar transport,” reads a statement. 

The department said it was also talking with other private schools to assist. 

The department has said that in some instances it asked schools to increase their capacity in order to accommodate more learners and to this end it provided those schools with mobile classrooms. 

The department says districts such as Tshwane West, Tshwane South, Johannesburg Central, Johannesburg East, Johannesburg North, Ekurhuleni South are the ones facing capacity challenges. 

“We are aware that some parents have lost hope and are angry at our officials at District offices. Some even resort to violence. This is to assure parents that the department is doing everything possible to accommodate all learners. We appeal for patience, calm and cooperation in the interest of learners,” a statement read.

The Western Cape has also said that it is anticipating approximately 107 000 grade 1 learners, over 93 000 grade 8 and 69 400 grade R in this academic year. 

The department spokesperson, Bronagh Hammon, told News24 on Tuesday that the department was placing learners by the hour. And that it was under pressure to place learners because some of them are new applications that it did not plan for and those include learners who moved to the province during the holiday period. 

Announcing the provincial matric results last week, Eastern Cape MEC for education Fundile Gade, said the province is already for the 2020 academic year and that 95% of workbooks, textbooks and stationery has already been delivered to schools. He also said that the department also has a large number of furniture in stock that will address shortages reported last year.