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The Western Cape Department of Education (WCED) is still failing to place some learners in school, despite a court ordering them to do so, alleging that some of their information is either incorrect or inadequate. Two weeks ago, the Western Cape High Court ordered  that the WCED place all learners who applied to enrol in a school in the Metro East Education District, within ten days.

According to Yolisa Piliso, attorney for the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), they are closely monitoring the placement of learners in schools and will try ensure that the recently placed learners receive the remedial support they need from the WCED. “Some reported being placed after the court order. For instance, one case was of a grade 12 learner who has only been enrolled in school now, and her parents, the school, and the district are still engaging on what schooling and support for the learner would look like for the remainder of the year. Some learners were enrolled but told to start school in July at the start of the third term, given that learners are now busy writing examinations,” said Piliso. 

“The WCED has a duty to ensure that all learners are enrolled in schools. Inadequacy of information and/or non-provision of ID numbers is not an excuse to keep learners waiting at home. Part B of the court case is aimed at tackling the WCED’s policy to ensure that there is both a plan and clear policy for processing admissions, in particular late applications,” he said. “The lack of clarity on dealing with late applications results in thousands of learners being left behind, particularly those from the Metro East district.”

In a recent joint statement, Equal Education allege that the WCED’s policy fails to address late applications and it unfairly discriminates against late applicants based on race, poverty level, place of birth, and social origin. The EELC is currently in the process of filing the matter on the semi-urgent court roll at the Western Cape High Court. Yet, the WCED is still adamant that “this matter could have been resolved through engagement with the Western Cape Education Department,” according to Western Cape MEC for Education David Maynier.

Parents voice concern over their children’s delayed progress

One of the parents who spoke to Elitsha, Nthatisi Rapase, mother to Atang Khalala (9) who started school on Monday at Imvumelwano Primary School in Wallacedene, said she was emotionally exhausted by seeing both her kids not going to school. Rapase said that her son was rejected also last year by all the schools she applied to, without any reasons being given. “Luckily, Atang’s sister was enrolled in a school just in time for January. So now it affected Atang badly that his sister is going to school and he is not. He started being sick and losing weight. Everyday he would wake up hoping that there would be some good news, he would even wake up before his sister. He would always ask what is happening with him,” said Rapase. 

Her hopes rose earlier in the year when she found out that her son had been accepted at Solomon Mahlangu Primary School. Yet, her excitement didn’t last long. “I was so excited, I even prepared for him the following day, only to be disappointed again that they could not take him because ‘he will hold back other kids’. The teachers and the principal were very rude. During the Easter holidays, I went to the district office in Kuilsriver. I was told they don’t know what to do because the principal is really rude. I lost hope at that time as a parent and I felt that Atang is cursed or has bad luck. But because of the help of the Equal Education Law Centre I didn’t give up, and also with the help of my sister, who was following up everyday – I am grateful for their assistance,” she explained.

Sinentlantla Quvile, a grade 10 learner who started school at Manyano High School in May, said he is afraid of failing the class as there is not enough remedial support for him to catch up the two terms of school he lost. Photo by Chris Gilili

Nomboniso Quvile told Elitsha that her son Sinentlantla Quvile (18) had to recently move from Tsolo, in the Eastern Cape, due to a family situation. “I was very unhappy as I had ended up taking my son to a school called Noluthando LCC based in Mfuleni. But my son said the school was dysfunctional. We never applied for school in the Western Cape. My child was staying with his grandmother, who is very ill. When his aunt passed away, I decided that he must come to Cape Town and stay with me to ease the burden. We were walk-ins in January, but we were told that all schools are full. I approached EELC. I will not lie, they really fought for us because in a while I got a request for my son’s report from the district offices. It was a long wait. I am worried because others are finished with the June exams. He was stressed, and very unhappy because he told himself that he would be doing grade 10 this year,” Quvile said. 

She said they got a call when he was placed in Manyano High School, after a long wait. “It’s late because he started school in May, I just hope he will cope. The school tested them, to see if they would be able to catch up, and he passed the test, and they promised they would do classes for them to catch up,” she added.

Speaking after school on Friday, Sinentlantla said he was thrilled to be at school finally as staying at home was stressful to him. “I am happy to finally be learning, but I am not sure I am going to pass at the pace things are going. We were told there would be catch-up classes for us, but that has not been happening properly. Teachers don’t have enough time for us, because they have to invigilate the exams. We have not touched some subjects. The only subject we have been consistently working on is IsiXhosa. I will try my best, because I told myself, I want to be doing matric by 18,” he told Elitsha. According to Sinentlantla there are 14 learners who started the grade 10 class in May at Manyano and 10 of them hail originally from the Eastern Cape.