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The Western Cape Education Department says it is doing its best to place late applications it received in 2023. According to the education MEC, David Maynier, the department has since the beginning of the year received 4,045 and an additional 926 in February.

There are a host of reasons that are given as an explanation for late applications. Not least of them is the lack of access and understanding of the online system. Learners moving from other provinces has also been cited as a factor.

“The challenge with late applications is that we do not know how many late applications we will receive, where the extremely late placement will be required, the grades, language, and ages of the learners, and the specific subjects and specialised needs of the learners. Placement of learners is therefore not straightforward as it relies on a variety of factors. This has made planning our resource allocation in advance extremely difficult,” said the department.

Even though online application was introduced a few years ago, many parents especially in townships and rural areas struggle with internet access.

The Bekwayo family from Phase 2 informal settlement in Khayelitsha has been affected by the failure of the education department to place their daughter in school. Acwenga Bekwayo (15) who is doing Grade 9 was forced by family squabbles to relocate to Cape Town but has not had it easy finding a school. “Not being able to go to school for close to two months really affected me because I had nothing to do, I just sat at home doing nothing, and some days I would walk aimlessly because of stress and frustration,” said Acwenga. The teenager at some point took the matter into her own hands and visited social workers to ask for assistance. They took her numbers but she never heard from them again.

The search for a school for Acwenga began last year just after she moved to Cape Town. The options given to her family were either to apply online or go to the district office but the online option was closed then. “By January 18 I went to Kuils River education department and I was told to wait, [that] I will receive a call. Come February I went to check and was told my child was not yet captured in the system,” said Thuliswa Bekwayo, mother to Acwenga. As a result of her repeated requests for leave from work to attend to her daughter’s predicament, and despite help from her eldest daughter in this effort, Thuliswa was dismissed.

Acwenga Bekwayo was finally placed in a school by the end of February, but only after her mother in desperation went to beg at every high school in Khayelitsha. “We managed to find placement at Thembelihle High School, and Acwenga started going to school on the 27th of February,” said Thuliswa.

“I missed out on a lot of work. On my first day we were told [that ] the following day we are writing a Maths test and I was not made an exception,” said Acwenga.

The Western Cape education department said it will take time for the department to redirect resources such as additional teachers and classrooms. Online applications for the year 2024 will open for exactly a month, starting from the 13th of March until the 14th of April 2023.