“Where do I turn to for help?”: Parents unable to place their children in school share their stories


For most parents the new school year has kicked off with excitement, hope and a dash of anxiety, but for others merely placing their children at school has been a challenge, to say the least. Countless numbers of children are still at home without placement. 

The number of emails Parent24 receives on a weekly basis regarding rejected school applications, unreasonably high (and compulsory) uniform costs, and prejudice by school staff are staggering!

Also read:

Many parents email us as a last resort after knocking on every official door possible. 

In search of clarity, Parent24 has contacted the Department of Basic Education and will provide an update when we receive a response.  

Here we’ve compiled the most recent and most shocking:              

"My daughter's friend, who applied after we had, was admitted"

"Last year in May I called some schools to check if they were still open for the 2018 admission. One such school is [name has been removed]. The secretary at said school told me I was too early. 

"I needed to apply after the June results were out. In July I visited the school as advised to submit an application for my daughter who was at the time a prospective grade 10 pupil. 

"I was given a reference number and told to wait for the response. I waited until December 5th when I got the "regret" letter. According to the communique, my daughter was not accepted because the school was full to its capacity. I wrote an appeal letter to the principal who wrote back and said they cannot consider my appeal because her school is full.

"On the same day... my daughter's friend who had applied to the school after we had applied told my daughter that she had been admitted. So, I wrote a letter to the principal to ask for clarity regarding that, and for the letter which states that the school is full to its capacity. Even today I have not received any feedback from the school. 

"This morning I called the school’s district office to enquire, and I was told that it might be because my daughter's math mark is below 60. I am deeply disappointed at the treatment I received, not because they rejected my daughter but because they not only misled me with their unclear communication but they delayed my application to other schools. 

"I am of the opinion that the school should have told me from the word go that they do not consider pupils with a less than 60% math mark. As I am writing this e-mail, my child is at home broken and disappointed in me not having made sure she has a school to go to.

"I, on the other hand, feel like my race is the determinant of my success in anything that I do in this province. And someone might ask, but why? Because when my white friend called the very same school, he got a different treatment from what I had gotten when I called. 

"I continued on my quest for finding a school for my child, I ended up at [name has been removed] to submit a late application. I realised that I had to be very understanding about whatever was going to be asked of me.

"As a parent who looked 'irresponsible' to anyone not knowing my circumstances, I set off to said school with my best behaviour in tow. There I was met with the school secretary, who before hearing what I wanted to say told me to find a seat.

"I sat down and watched as a white family who had been walking right behind me as we entered the reception area got helped. Several people went to the window and left while I sat patiently waiting for the secretary's help.

"After about an hour of waiting and watching the secretary chatting to a ‘friend’, I approached the window to try and find out if she had forgotten about me. Filled with emotions and my eyes close to tearing I went to the window, and finally, she finished talking and asked if I needed any help.

"I told her that she had asked me to sit down earlier, and her response was "Ooooooh, sorry it has been so busy here today". The question that I asked myself is: Is this the plight of a black single parent that cannot afford expensive private education in the Western Cape?"

– Sincerely, Anonymous

"I don't know what to do anymore" 

"I am the oldest brother of two siblings. After my mother passed away they had a tough year because no one was taking care of them due to family politics.

"They were staying in JHB and I was in Cape Town, since I work in Cape Town permanently I decided to bring them with me because of the situation I saw them in when I visited JHB in December holidays.

"Since the schools opening, I have gone from school to school putting in applications without any luck, some schools didn't even take the applications as they put up a note that it was full at the gate. 

"I don't know what to do anymore, your help would be much appreciated, I am losing out hours every day from work because of hunting for a school. Please help me." 

– Kind regards, Anonymous

"They do not take monthly payments. Is this allowed?" 

"I recently took my daughter to a school [name has been removed]. I was told by the owner of the school that only the full-term fees were accepted and that they do not take monthly payments. Is this allowed? 

"I'm currently still looking for a school for my daughter as the schools are all full." 

– Anonymous

"I have been pressurised into paying school fees even though I've been through an exemption process"

"I have had my child placed in [name has been removed] by the inspector of the Department of Education 2 years ago, and since then I have been pressurised into paying school fees even though I've been through an exemption process and was not informed of the results of that process, if I qualified or not.

"Since then, I have put in admission for my second child at that the same school but have been denied for 2 years now. I was told that if I could write and sign a letter that I would pay the full R10 950 for the year’s school fees, then my child will be accepted in the school.

"As a couple my husband and I earn R2000pm and in child grant, I receive R1000pm. I've been to the Department of Education and had pinned all my hopes on the inspector there who had asked me to attend a meeting a few days later where he would have asked the principal to attend so I could appeal to her by relaying my plight.

"I was devastated when the date came for the appointment and I'd spent, what was to me, a fortune to go to the Department and I was turned away by the inspector saying he is too busy as he has so many people to help and I should approach the principal once more. 

"Where do I turn to for help? Counting on the Department of Education to assist me 2 years have gone by. Now my child will be turning 7 and is not in school yet and my youngest who is turning 5 should be in preschool."

– Anonymous

Also see: Struggling to afford school fees? Here's how to apply for school-fee exemption 

Too old to be educated? 

"My 18-year-old boy has been refused access to a state school because of his age. There are reasons why he is still schooling but they won't listen. What should I do now?" 

"The children were maltreated to such a point that the kids had to be removed from the school" 

"At [name has been removed], two years in a row the children were denied admittance to the school for the reason of school fees. Out of desperation, the Department of Education was approached, and after a meeting where the school denied refusal, they were forced to accept the children.

"As result, the children were maltreated to such a point that the kids had to be removed from the school.

"The receptionist acted very rudely towards new parents trying to apply for the first time and in a letter, threatened the parent’s welfare. The receptionist even pointed out to a cashier in a nearby shopping mall that the manager should 'watch' those people because they have no money.

"The psychological effects of this school’s behaviour towards both parents and kids is something that we will never forget. It was horrid.

"No one should ever put their children in that school." 

– Anonymous

"I paid over R6 000 for a uniform"  

"I am a parent of a 10-year-old. She's moved schools and starting grade 5 at [name has been removed]. To this day I cannot understand how I paid a total of R6 600 [for school uniform] for a ten-year-old. 

"So far four other parents complained that they paid over R6 000 on a uniform. The quality is low and the school uniform can only be bought at the school. I'm crying out for help. In disbelief!

"I'm willing to share my story and show a copy of receipts."

– Kind Regards

"Reality of the matter is that the online learner placement application process is failing us" 

"I am writing this piece in tears, the feeling is as though we are incompetent and can’t follow simple instructions and reality of the matter is that the online learner placement application process is failing us.

"It is sad knowing I followed the process to its granular state and still I have a son not placed, or even worse, I have no idea if he will ever be placed. My story below as it happens for the second year. 

"I did not get correspondence confirming placement or decline by 30 October 2017. I went to the school of choice as I had applied online to find out what the status was, only to be told I did not submit supporting documents which is a blatant lie.

"However, experience as a good teacher I brought them handy because the last year the same document story transpired when I was looking to place my daughter at the same school of choice. Now that I had documents handy I was told to consult the district office as they deal with placements. I went to the district and the system confirmed my son's name to be linked to the school and documents were submitted and I have the print out to prove it. 

"I was then referred to [name has been removed] who is responsible for [name has been removed], who could not even take time to get the context of my issue. His interest was more on giving alternative placement which I am not happy with considering he did not even listen to my story. 

"Last year I had the same issue. I have since logged a dispute and received an SMS to get feedback, I spent my day at the district office hoping I will get some direction and I was led to [name has been removed] again whom I had a chat with and said he will attend to us. But when we were at the 9th floor, we were told he'd left the building. Really, is this how things are in our schooling department?" 

– Anonymous

Do you have a similiar story? Send an email to chatback@parent24.com and we could publish your letter. Do let us know if you'd like to stay anonymous.  

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