Lesufi slammed for failing to place thousands of pupils at start of academic year

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Bongani Nkosi

The Gauteng Education Department has been urged to ensure that 2019 should be the last year that starts with thousands of pupils not in class.

For several years now the department has battled to place all Grade 1 and Grade 8 pupils in schools before the beginning of the academic year.

This year started with more than 16000 pupils yet to be placed in provincial public schools.

It was about time this annual drama came to an end, a law clinic and an opposition political party have said.

“(The year) 2020 should see no learners scrambling for school places while others are in class already,” said Isabel Magaya, a researcher and lawyer at the Centre for Child Law.

IFP MPL in Gauteng Bonginkosi Dhlamini said it was exhausting that pupils were subjected to the same issue each year.

“It cannot be the case that every year for the past few years, learners have not been able to kick-off their academic year at schools in our province. MEC Panyaza Lesufi must walk his talk and take swift action,” Dhlamini said.

He said thousands of pupils were still not in class, weeks after the start of the 2019 academic year.

“A day without learning is a day too many. It is deplorable that learners in parts of Gauteng can be seen loitering in the streets in uniform due to failure to place them,” he said.

The number of Gauteng pupils starting the year without being placed has, however, declined over the years.

The figure stood at between 40000 and 58000 in 2017.

The number decreased to 31000 in 2018 and just more than 16000 this year.

Magaya said while this decline was laudable, the problem should be eliminated altogether.

“The centre is of the opinion that more could and should be done to effectively deal with placement shortages,” she said.

“The centre notes that some of the problems with late placements are as a result of non-compliance and late applications by parents, but the centre is of the view that these problems also stem from wider systemic issues such as poor infrastructure planning and delivery by the (provincial) department ”

The centre expressed doubt the province had complied with its 2009 promise to the Constitutional Court to spend R1.7billion – or 40% – of its annual budget on building new schools.

Steve Mabona, spokesman for the department, said there were various factors that saw pupils unplaced, including that some parents rejected allocated schools.

He said the department would know the exact number of unplaced pupils this week.

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