Par­ents slam dept’s school op­tions

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS - NORMA WILDENBOER STAFF RE­PORTER

THE PAR­ENTS of dozens of pupils who are still await­ing place­ment in schools in the North­ern Cape has lashed out against the Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion for “dis­crim­i­nat­ing against their chil­dren” by only mak­ing pro­vi­sion for them at “aca­dem­i­cally sub­stan­dard” schools.

While the North­ern Cape Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion (NCDOE) at the week­end in­di­cated that all Grade 1 and 8 pupils would be placed in schools by to­day, par­ents were still scram­bling to get their chil­dren into pre­ferred schools.

NCDOE spokesper­son, Le­huma Ntu­ane, said that while no more places were avail­able for Grade R pupils at schools and par­ents were ad­vised to con­tact com­mu­nity-based cen­tres, about 60 grade 8 pupils, who were still not placed, were given the op­tion of four schools in Kim­ber­ley.

These schools in­clude Floors One and Floors Two High Schools, Homevale Sec­ondary School and Wil­liam Pescod Sec­ondary School.

How­ever, par­ents have dis­missed the four op­tions, claim­ing the depart­ment was “dis­crim­i­nat­ing” against their chil­dren by only giv­ing them op­tions of “aca­dem­i­cally sub­stan­dard” schools, in­stead of al­low­ing them to the schools of their pref­er­ence.

One fa­ther, who was still try­ing to get his Grade R and Grade 8 chil­dren into schools after al­ready miss­ing the first three days of class, said the two chil­dren had not been placed for their grades, de­spite hav­ing sub­mit­ted their ap­pli­ca­tions on time last year.

“Last Mon­day, I and many other par­ents, ap­proached the Dis­trict Of­fice for feed­back on our ap­pli­ca­tions. We were re­ferred to the MEC’S of­fice for a let­ter that in­di­cated the out­comes of our ap­peals. Upon ar­riv­ing there, it was an­other fruit­less ex­er­cise as no such let­ter was avail­able for some par­ents, in­clud­ing my­self.

“I was asked to come back the next day. When I ar­rived on Tues­day, we were re­ferred from one of­fi­cial to an­other in­clud­ing been ad­dressed by the Head of the Min­istry. We were in­formed that no progress was made and that we need to go to the Dis­trict Of­fice the next day.

“On Wed­nes­day the per­son re­spon­si­ble for the place­ments at the Dis­trict Of­fice changed his tune, say­ing that it was no longer nec­es­sary for let­ters from the MEC be­cause they had all the pupils’ de­tails on the sys­tem. This, in de­spite of his in­sis­tence on Mon­day that the let­ter is needed to en­sure place­ment.

“On Fri­day, after again vis­it­ing the Dis­trict Of­fice, the depart­ment con­tacted me and gave me the op­tions of four schools in Kim­ber­ley where place was still avail­able,” the fa­ther said, again re­it­er­at­ing that he had sub­mit­ted ap­pli­ca­tions for place­ment in time.

He added that the op­tions for place­ment were “com­pletely un­ac­cept­able” as these schools “were aca­dem­i­cally sub­stan­dard and known to lack dis­ci­pline”.

“My daugh­ter scored ex­cep­tion­ally high marks dur­ing her Grade 7 ex­ams and was hop­ing to get a place­ment at Kim­ber­ley Girls’ High School. The depart­ment’s cri­te­ria for place­ment is dis­crim­i­na­tory and does not ad­dress his­tor­i­cal in­jus­tices. We are now con­sid­er­ing ap­ply­ing to a school out­side the Prov­ince, in an at­tempt to get my child the best ed­u­ca­tion pos­si­ble,” the fa­ther said.

Ntu­ane re­sponded by say­ing that the depart­ment could not guar­an­tee that chil­dren would be placed at the schools of their pref­er­ence.

“We must in­di­cate that since the schools re­opened, we have re­ceived more than a hun­dred new late ap­pli­ca­tions, which is a clear in­di­ca­tion that par­ents are not ful­fill­ing their pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“We have in­di­cated from the on­set that we won’t be able to guar­an­tee par­ents a school of pref­er­ence. Our dis­trict of­fices have con­tacted par­ents to pro­vide al­ter­na­tive place­ment to pupils. We fur­ther en­cour­age par­ents to work with us to speed­ily re­solve the place­ment of pupils. We can­not turn a blind eye to these ap­pli­cants, as ed­u­ca­tion is a con­sti­tu­tional right,” Ntu­ane con­cluded.

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