Mbombela - The first week of school for some Mpumalanga parents had been a struggle as they were turned away from schools already filled to capacity.“We applied at three schools in June last year but didn’t hear back from them. We continued to make late applications to other schools, but that also didn’t result in a placement,” Ira Pillay said.Her daughter Zoey, 7, would start Grade 1 this year. In Gauteng, a total of 19 000 children were still waiting to be placed in Grades 1 and 8.Pillay said she was not interested in sending her child to a private school as it was too expensive and did not offer “too many advantages”.“It’s heartbreaking that my daughter has to miss one of the most important days of her life, a day she will never get back. I do however sympathise with the schools, as there is not much they can do about it being full,” said Pillay.Another Mbombela parent with a child in Grade 8 said four schools had turned them away.“There is a dire need for more schools in our area. The principals told us they were full and there’s nothing they could do. We have now been placed on a waiting list and been promised that our child will be placed by the end of next week,” the parent said.Mpumalanga education department spokesperson Jasper Zwane claimed such cases were relatively isolated and that the province had generally been happy with the admission process for the 2017 school year.“We have been informed of a few cases where parents were told that schools were full, but we are working hard to ensure that every pupil is placed in a school before the end of next week,” he said. Zwane said that in the current financial year, the department was mainly focusing on ensuring that existing schools had basic services such as sanitation and electricity. DA councillor in Mbombela, Tersia Marshall, said government was aware of the enormous shortage of schools but ignoring the situation.“Next year, the shortage will be even greater. Parents are urged to apply to various schools as early as possible,” Marshall said.