Back to school for millions of pupils

2010-01-13 13:52

About 12 million school children were expected to begin their new

year of study on Wednesday, the department of basic education said.

And, just more than 1.1 million will be small children in oversized

uniforms starting Grade 1 and another estimated 500 000 parents placing their

children in the school readiness year, grade R.

“We are hoping that the majority of schools would have started this

morning with learning and teaching,” said spokesperson Granville Whittle.

Schools usually submit a report on the intake on the 10th day of

school so accurate figures will be available then, but in the meantime, the

department has set up task teams at various schools throughout the country to

cope with the arrival of pupils whose parents have not yet registered them or

confirmed a place.

“In urban centres, the biggest problem is that parents don’t

register their children early - between June and October of the previous year.

The parents still pitch up on the first day,” he said.

To manage this, the task teams will be in place to tell the parents

that a school is full.

“If a school is full, it is full. It is dangerous to learners if

there is massive overcrowding. We must balance the constitutional right to

education with those dangers. We must make sure they are placed or provide

additional classrooms.”

Meanwhile, many of the problems reported to the department were of

schools damaged by the severe summer storms, particularly in Mpumalanga, the

North West, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal.

The schools have opted for mobile classes while repairs are

arranged, but, in KwaZulu-Natal delays in their delivery, meant that some pupils

would be taught in tents.

Whittle said that in the Western Cape, about 20 schools were broken

into and vandalised during the holidays, so staff would have to clean those

classrooms out and repair damage.

Ninety-nine percent of textbooks and stationery had been delivered

to schools, but there were some delays in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape which

should be resolved by later on Wednesday.

“Other than that we are rather optimistic. We are hoping that the

majority of schools would have started this morning with learning and


Education MECs were fanning out in their provinces, visiting

schools, while Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Deputy Minister of Basic

Education Enver Surty visited Mpheko High School in uMthatha to assess


Whittle said if a school was not ready, parents were encouraged to

report this to the district education office.

Whittle said parents who were not able to pay fees were entitled to

apply for an exemption on forms provided by either the principal or the school

governing body and from this year the school is compensated with R740 per pupil

granted exemption.

He said that schools are not allowed to force parents to pay a

registration fee, nor turn a child away if their parents cannot afford to



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