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Friday, March 5, 2021
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Western Cape: So many learners, so little space

Thabo Mohlala

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) is working feverishly to place learners in schools before schools re-open next week. Although the number of learners to be placed is considerably smaller compared to their Gauteng Education Department, officials at the province say the pressure is just as enormous.

WCED’s Paddy Attwell told Inside Education on Thursday morning, that they were working under considerable pressure to ensure they found places for over 11,000 learners. He said over the past five years they have experienced a huge spike of about 130,000 learners coming mainly from the Eastern Cape.  

He said although they had their own data to determine how many schools were needed to cope with the numbers of learners from other provinces, the department did not have sufficient funds to build as many as they would like to. He said mobile classrooms only took six weeks to set up, making them a simpler and quicker solution. 

“Building new schools is a long-term solution and what we are focusing on at the moment is to look at other short-term solutions such as the deployment of mobile classrooms,” said Attwell.

He said at the moment most “schools of choice” were full which is why they decided to install mobile classrooms, particularly in areas that experience rapid growth. Attwell said they spent R1.6 billion on building new schools and on the maintenance and expansion existing schools.

In a statement released this week, WCED said they were struggling to accommodate particularly learners in Grades 1 and 8. The department said since last year they placed 99% (1.1 million) of the learners needing a place, with 11,249 still waiting.

The department said their officials and schools planned well ahead to ensure every learner was placed, adding that each district had officials specifically assigned to help parents with placement.

The WCED said it would redeploy teachers in excess of requirements at certain schools to experiencing seeing rapid growth, where possible, depending on the teachers’ qualifications. 

“We do encourage parents who plan to move to the Western Cape not to deregister their child/ children from their current schools before securing a place at a school in the Western Cape,” the statement read.

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