BY MINISTER DEBBIE SCHAFER, WESTERN CAPE MINISTER OF EDUCATION:
This year was the first opportunity I have had as Minister of Education to witness first-hand the consequences and effects that late enrolment has on education as a whole.
As a parent I have always been well aware of the importance of early enrolment. I want to ensure that my children are in a school on the first day of the school year and that they do not miss out on any teaching and learning time. As a parent, it is my responsibility to ensure that they are enrolled in a school well before the next school year.
However, I have been disheartened to see how many parents do not take on this responsibility, or their lack of urgency in doing so. While we usually accommodate up to 99% of learners in our schools each year before the start of the academic year, the 1% of learners who enrol late can cause disruption.
I understand that sometimes late enrolment is as a result of unforeseen circumstances for many parents. Many parents move around the province all the time, relocating to new areas for work or other opportunities. They then require enrolment in a new school.
It is just unfortunate that many parents who continue to reside in the same areas fail to enrol their children in time. This places a massive burden on our officials at the start of the school year, and disrupts teaching and learning time.
I am therefore appealing to all parents of learners that need to be enrolled in a new school in 2016 to apply to their nearest schools today. In the majority of cases these include children who are entering primary or high school for the first time, or who are changing schools.
While enrolments at schools usually open in March of each year, there is a significant number of parents that only begin applying to schools in the latter stages of the school year. Once the December holidays come around, schools close and we are unable to place more learners until they re-open in January at the start of the school year.
Therefore, the WCED has decided to move forward our enrolments deadline for the 2016 academic year to 30th June 2015.
This will make it possible for schools and the department to make the necessary arrangements to accommodate all learners during the second half of the year.
Many of our popular schools are already full and have waiting lists, so there is no guarantee even now that parents will find places at their school of choice.
We are very grateful to these parents for taking the initiative to make sure that their children have places in school next year. I hope that other parents soon follow suit as the sooner we know how many learners need accommodation and where, the sooner we can help our parents to find possible alternatives or provide assistance should they be unable to find accommodation at various schools.
It is also important for schools and the education department to know as soon as possible how many learners they have to cater for so that they can plan ahead.
For example, our department has to know where we will require additional classrooms, teachers, textbooks and desks and chairs.
It is important that these measures and resources are in place before the end of this year, so that teaching and learning can start on the first day of term in January 2016.
However, if learners enrol late, then we cannot always plan for unexpected growth in certain schools and areas and, as a consequence, additional orders need to be placed and accommodation sought.
Most of the time we can predict where we will see strong growth in demand. We also plan for the unexpected, where possible.
For example, we deployed about 200 mobile classrooms across the province in rapidly growing communities late last year and early this year. This made it possible for us to accommodate additional children in these areas more easily. We also ordered additional textbooks for schools to plan for unexpected growth, and kept some “growth posts” aside for additional teachers where required.
While this additional planning was in place, we will always face unexpected growth in various areas or certain grades that we cannot plan for. Therefore, it is imperative that as many learners are enrolled timeously so that we can minimize this risk as much as possible.
In order to further encourage parents to enrol early, the WCED is promoting early enrolment in various areas across the province so as to encourage and remind parents about their responsibilities.
The theme of the campaign is based on the fact that “The rush for education has begun”.
Radio advertisements tell stories of people who are scrambling to enrol their children, after forgetting to do so. Billboards and displays in taxis highlight this rush and urge parents to enrol their children as soon as possible.
We are also distributing important information on enrolment via social media, using Mxit. The whole campaign will continue until 30th June 2015.
We urge parents to take our campaign message to heart. The fact is that the “rush for education has already begun” and therefore ask that parents apply to more than one school to avoid disappointment.
Schools will let parents know in writing whether they can accommodate their children. If an offer of a place is made by a school, parents must accept in writing.
We urge parents not to wait for the written offer before applying to another school.
We encourage parents to accept the next school of choice if your first choice is full.
Our message is simple today – Please do not waste time. Enrol you children for school today. Help us to make sure that we have everything in place for your child’s education in 2016.
Let’s make education better together.