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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Great concern over unplaced learners in schools in the Western Cape

The Legal Resources Centre (LRC) has asked parents whose children have not yet been placed in a school in the Western Cape for the 2021 school year to contact them.

The LRC said it is “gravely concerned” about the increasingly high number of unplaced learners in schools in the Western Cape.

“On 13 April 2021, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) released a statement indicating that the current number of unplaced learners in the province is at a shocking 4 188. On 14 April 2021, the WCED informed us that 3 786 learners remain unplaced.

“The WCED statement indicates that all the learners that gathered under the trees in Forest Village for learning have now been placed in schools, however, it fails to mention why it has taken this long to place these learners and what concrete plans have been made to place the remaining 3 786 learners in schools,” said the LRC.

The organisation has threatened legal action against the education provincial department.

On Tuesday chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba raised concerns that it took several months for WCED to place children at schools.

Mbinqo-Gigaba questioned why learners could not be placed at the beginning of the academic year.

In response, WCED MEC Debbie Schäfer said the delays were due to a lack of funding for additional learners. Schäfer said it was only after more funds were made available by the provincial treasury following the intervention by the Premier, that all learners could be placed.

The WCED had over 5 000 learners not placed in schools by March 2021.

On 24 April, the provincial department had 1228 unplaced learners.

Updated information received by the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on 10 May 2021 showed that 109 learners were still unplaced.

Schäfer said all 109 learners have now been accommodated but parents have not confirmed with the schools where space had been allocated.

She said the WCED released more than 400 additional posts in March and an additional 179 posts were added in April to relieve pressure and place learners.

She added that a further 43 classrooms were opened after the appointment of additional teachers and 129 mobile classrooms were procured and delivery has commenced.

Schäfer made a presentation to the committee meeting showing that an internal task team has been asked to plan for the 2022 needs of learners now in May. According to the presentation, expert in knowledge management, infrastructure and institutional resource support are to form part of the task team.

“Management plan for 2022 placement must be finalised by 30 June 2021 and submissions for 2022 needs must be on route by 1 July 2021,” said Schäfer.

Schäfer said there were 21 021 learners and 19 452 learners for 2020 and 2021 respectively for Grades R to 12 first time registrations from other provinces and countries.

She said annual learner growth has implications for teachers, classrooms, resources, transport and feeding.

The LRC said it concerned about the fact that these learners have missed a term of learning.

The organisation said the WCED should put in place measures to ensure that these learners are placed in schools as a matter of urgency, and are given the opportunity to catch up with the work they have missed out on.

The LRC said the WCED should not blame the high numbers of unplaced learners on the lack of necessary funding. The organisation said it welcomes the Public Service Commission investigation into the issue of placement and funding constraints in all education departments nationwide.

“Lastly, we call on the WCED to stop blaming migration from the Eastern Cape to the Western Cape for the increase in unplaced learners.

“The reasons why these learners apply for school admission in the Western Cape are irrelevant to the constitutional mandate of the WCED to provide access to education for all persons within its jurisdiction,” said the LRC.

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