The Gauteng Department of Education has reduced the number of unplaced school pupils from 34 535 on November 3, to 9 618 on November 24.The department is also working on processing 160 appeals.In a statement on Sunday, spokesperson Steve Mabona said 272 741 (96.4%) of 282 787 applicants who submitted documents had been placed. This decrease in unplaced pupils was achieved in close collaboration with schools, Mabona said. "Working closely and collaboratively with our schools, especially those in high-pressure areas, we managed to increase capacity to accommodate more unplaced learners, consequently, most of the high-pressure schools are full."We have identified schools where additional classroom capacity is required to allow for additional placements. Procurement processes are under way to assist with provisioning of mobile classrooms to the identified schools."The placement process has been accelerated thanks to a system which auto populated placements according to certain details like geographical area, siblings in the school and work addresses. "Parents who did not accept offers of placement forfeited unconfirmed offers. New offers were issued to the next in line on the placement list. To facilitate further placement, schools with high number of applicants were persuaded and agreed to increase capacity to accommodate more learners," Mabona said. These negotiations were based on the space available within classrooms to fill up capacity as well as converting unused spaces into classrooms and using available grounds to erect mobile classrooms. "We focused on schools which didn't reach capacity during placement. The system auto-populated offers with applications within 30kms and beyond 30kms; transfers were processed to schools with available spaces for parents who applied to one school that was filled," Mabona said.Lastly, the department matched unplaced pupils from full schools with schools in feeder zones that matched the address of the applicant."It became evident that 160 057 (60%) applied only to one school, and this is further hindering the placement process, because we need to link the learner within the feeder zone/s. Of this number, 18 223 had applied to schools outside their feeder zone," Mabona said. Afrikaans-speaking pupilsMabona also took the opportunity to address "distorted assertions made by some non-progressive lobby groups" regarding the matter of Afrikaans-speaking pupils. "The department has never expressed any intention to take Afrikaans-speaking pupils to township schools. "The expressed intention is to introduce English and Afrikaans as the Language of Learning and Teaching (LoLT) in the under-subscribed township schools. Such schools will be assisted to acquire the necessary educators that have qualifications and proficiency to teach in the desired LoLT", he said. Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi also lambasted these assertions: "We would like to reiterate that time is too precious to waste on negative organisations who do not have a desire for transformation, social cohesion and non-racialism. Such people aim to further oppress the down-trodden and to reduce the positive gains that were achieved since the dawn of our democracy."The department said that some schools were calling on parents to use these "non-progressive" lobby groups to pressure the department to accept children, irrespective of adherence to admissions regulations."We earnestly caution and call upon all schools not to participate in such irresponsible and unnecessary ill-practices. They must be reminded that there is nothing like an exclusive public ordinary school. In fact, all public ordinary schools belong to all people," Mabona said. He added: "The department will continue to engage single medium schools with low learner enrolments to merge to make schools available to accommodate applicants who need to be taught in a different language."