11th-hour rush before school

In Mthatha it’s uniforms, in East London the panic is for places in class


While long queues snaked down Nelson Mandela Drive in Mthatha on Tuesday as hundreds of parents made a last-minute dash for school uniforms, scores of parents in East London were still hoping to secure places in school for their children.
Eastern Cape Shoes and Schoolwear owner Jay Naidoo said the queues in Mthatha started at the beginning of the month. “This is our busiest time of year and this year the queues started on January 3 but this is something we have come to expect,” said Naidoo.
The queue started from the shop entrance on the corner of Nelson Mandela Drive and Craister Street and went 500m towards Mthatha Plaza Mall.
Naidoo said they had hired and trained four additional staff members to assist with the large numbers. “We are even working extra hours. We now open up at 7am and close at 7pm, sometimes till 9pm, and we even open on Sunday, but still there’s a lot of people,” said Naidoo.
Parents in the queue said they had been there since early morning. Some told the Dispatch at about 10am they had arrived 5am and were still nowhere near the door.
Thabisa Soyizaphi said it was her third day in the line.
“I ran out of time on Sunday. If I had stayed any longer I would have missed the taxis going home. But today I came earlier and I have been here since 6am, and I don’t have a choice now because schools open tomorrow [Wednesday]. I have to wait until I can make my purchase,” said Soyizaphi, adding that she was shopping only now because she had been waiting for money.
To manage the crowd and avoid fighting and stampeding, the security staff at the shop only allowed a group of 10 inside the shop at a time.
Ntombifuthi Makalima said she had taken a day off work because she realised she would be waiting all day.
“I just need a tie for my child and this is the only place that sells the one with the right badge,” said Makalima.
In East London, AW Barnes Primary school and John Bisseker Senior Secondary in Parkside, Ebenezer Majombozi and Kusile High schools in Gompo, and Southernwood Primary school were just a few of the schools that experienced large numbers of walk-in applications since Monday.
Southernwood Primary principal Michelle Rothmann said the dilemma schools faced each year was heartbreaking as parents had to be turned away.
“The biggest challenge is the lack of schools in Southernwood.
“The area is growing but schools haven’t increased,” she said, adding the school had built two new classrooms late last year and the one was reserved to accommodate new Grade 1 pupils.
“There are now two Grade 1 classes – one with 40 pupils and another with 36, but there is still an influx of parents looking for space. We just don’t have classrooms,” she said.
AW Barnes deputy principal Raymond Lottering said: “Our waiting list has been full since last year. We are waiting for the completion of two extra classrooms so that we can accommodate more pupils in future.”
At John Bisseker, more than 100 parents were at the school hoping to find a place for their children. Nomfezeko Lujiza said she could not apply in time as she works in Cape Town while her child lives in East London.
“I am here to beg. We’ve already been told that there’s no space but we will wait and hope for the best.”
School principal Tyrone Vengadajellum said: “There is a demand for space in urban schools but there is no capacity to take more pupils. Schools are battling under urbanisation.”..

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