WCED Taken To Court Over Unplaced School Learners For 2024


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Term 2 has is now underway at schools around South Africa. However, some learners in the Western Cape are not placed at a school in the province. 


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Learners in the Western Cape have still not been placed at a school in the province with four months of learning already completed. This has prompted legal action from Equal Education (EE) and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC).

They aim to ensure the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) places all these unplaced learners in schools immediately. 

The first part of their legal action seeks a court order requiring the WCED to place all unplaced late applicants. Additionally, they request support plans to help these learners catch up academically and an investigation into the WCED's placement failures.

The second part of their court application challenges the WCED's policy on late applications, arguing it discriminates against disadvantaged groups and violates learners' right to education.

The aim of this is to have the court declare the policy unconstitutional and force changes to ensure a clearer and fairer process for late applicants.

This issue of learner placement has been a thorn in the side of the WCED for some time. 

In February 2024, the WCED revealed it received 3 579 extremely late applications for Grade 1 and Grade 8 learners. The department classified extremely late applications as those received after 1 January 2024 for the 2024 school year.

At the time, the department had placed 3 208 of these applicants with 371 learners still awaiting placement. The WCED said extremely late applications pose a great challenge, as they arrive daily forcing the department to constantly chase moving targets.

They have arrived without warning, and we cannot predict where and when these late applicants will arrive. This has made planning our resource allocation extremely difficult.

Parents who apply for their child's school placement after the deadline set by the WCED won't have their application be considered until all the applications submitted on time have been processed. This means parents may wait a long time to find out if their child got a spot in school.

Equal Education says they have been flooded with inquiries from parents, particularly in the Metro East Education District, who are struggling to get their children enrolled. 

They say despite efforts to address the problem through letters, meetings, protests, and even memorandums, the WCED hasn't implemented significant changes or improved its planning process.

Parents and caregivers along with EE and the EELC, have no other choice but to approach the courts to secure the placement of the many learners who, more than two weeks into the second school term, are still at home without access to education. 

The EE has provided an example of a child who moved provinces due to a parent finding employment, highlighting the unforeseen circumstances that can lead to late applications. However, these unfortunate circumstances do not mean that a child’s right to education can be infringed upon. 

The child’s mother had been job hunting for the past eight years. She eventually, in December 2023, received an offer for employment as a domestic worker in Johannesburg to start in the first week of January 2024. Considering that Ms Nokuthula was the only person who could take care of the child in the Eastern Cape, I had no other option but to take in the child to come and stay with me in Khayelitsha.

Another story details the financial struggles a family faced when forced to relocate a child due to a caregiving situation, showcasing the socio-economic factors impacting timely applications.

According to a caregiver quoted in the court application by EE, their grandchild lost their father in 2007 and went to live with an aunt in Cape Town. Soon after, the aunt relocated to the Eastern Cape, forcing the child to move again to live with the grandparents in Khayelitsha. However, the school that the child was placed at was far away and more than a R1,000 per month was required for transport. 

Aware of the admissions challenges in Khayelitsha, the grandparent is now facing difficulties finding a closer school for the child at the start of the 2024 academic year.

He had to use public transport to and from school which cost about R1150 per month. Each month was a struggle for my family to pay that money, but we had no other option – given the admission challenges we were already aware of, particularly in Khayelitsha and the surrounding areas. 

Equal Education has also criticised the inaccessibility of the online system used for school admission in the Western Cape. 

They explain that the majority of learners who continue to be affected by non-placement are black children from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds. 

Non-access to education for these learners worsens the inequality in the Western Cape. Applying late does not mean that learners should lose their right to access education. 

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