More than 300 Eastern Cape pupils have still not been placed in a school – four months into the new year.
However, the provincial department of education said this was a “far better picture” than at the beginning of the school year when more than 1000 parents were looking to place their children.
Department spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said their database showed that by the end of February about 620 pupils were still looking for schools in areas such as East London, King William’s Town, Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage.
“The numbers have now dropped to just above 300, as some schools have agreed to put extra learners in each class to help alleviate the crisis,” said Pulumani.
“But 300 remains a crisis, because no parent wants to go to work and leave his or her child behind because he could not be accommodated in public schools,” said Pulumani.
The figures show that East London and King William’s Town were two of the worst affected areas for placements in Grade 1 and Grade 8.
Of the 300 pupils from across the province who could not be placed by last Friday, 176 were Grade 8 pupils looking for schools in East London and King William’s Town.
East London single father of three, Luyanda Mema, battled to find space for two of his children and finally turned to a private institution.
Mema lost his wife while the family was still living in Cape Town and after he had secured a senior manager position at the University of Fort Hare.
His 63-year-old mother relocated from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town to look after the children but fell ill in December forcing him to move them to East London.
He was unable to get his six and 12-year-old daughters into a government school.
Out of desperation, he turned to a private school which proved costly and the girls were admitted to Grade 1 and Grade 7 respectively.
Mema said he used to pay an average of between R2000 to R2500 per month for school fees but that had now escalated to between R4500 and R6000 a month.
“I’m grateful to the school, but having to send your children to such a school without having planned for it has far-reaching implications to your budget.
“It’s not just the money, but my children were traumatised when I had to leave them at home while their peers were at school,” he said.
Pulumani said the situation in East London and King was exacerbated by several primary schools that did not have feeder high schools.
Most of these schools offer English as a first language, a situation which limits the options for parents when their children have to do Grade 8.
“In East London most of the high schools serve as feeder schools for their primary schools,” Pulumani said.
“It’s a nightmare because most of these needy pupils are unable to go to township schools where they will be forced to do Xhosa or Afrikaans at high school as a first language subject.”
Pulumani said of the 300 pupils still to find placement, some parents may have taken the same route as Mema and registered their children in private schools.
He said the department this week launched a campaign to encourage parents to apply on time for 2018 academic year.
The programme includes publicity for collection of application forms and due dates for submissions as well as deadlines for schools to confirm availability of space to each applicant.
“We know there will be exceptional cases of parents who are forced to re-locate to other provinces, but we have to get the registration part perfectly so that we can be able to plan and budget accordingly,” said Pulumani.