Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Western Cape Minister of Education Debbie Schafer visits Perivale primary school

Western Cape Minister of Education Debbie Schafer visited Perivale primary school on Wednesday to welcome students back to the classroom.

After more than a year of no school due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1.1 million students across the Western Cape headed back to the classroom on Wednesday. At Perivale, they were greeted by their principal, teachers, friends and the provincial minister of education Debbie Schafer.

In her greeting to students she stressed the importance of reading as an academic focus for this year and encouraged students to read twenty minutes per day.

Schafer said the department of education has worked tirelessly to ensure they were ready for the proper return to the classroom.

According to WCED, there are still more than 400 unplaced students in Grade 1 and more than 2400 in Grade 8. The department said it working hard to ensure placement comes as soon as possible.

Schafer urged parents of unplaced learners to keep their phones handy so as not to miss calls from school officials.

Despite the high number of unplaced learners, Schafer said she believed the number was an improvement given the more than 32,000 late applications.

For parents who have not yet applied for their children to be placed in school, they can contact the Western Cape Education department district offices so they can be added to the placement list. 

Schafer said the issue of unplaced students is a persistent problem across the country. She said it is difficult to navigate the intersections of education and policy because it often involves bureaucracy and constantly changing plans.

The Western Cape does have a 10-year plan in place to build more schools based on identified growth areas, but Schafer said even that is not set in stone because it does not account for change over time or unpredictable events, like a pandemic.

The pandemic forced the Western Cape to divert nearly 450 million rand to fill pandemic needs. That’s money that could’ve been going to classrooms or new school construction.

Schafer said she intends to lobby the national government for more funding. She said another effort to help mend the unplaced student issue, the provincial education department is trying to make the registration process easier and more accessible by reaching out to families and moving the process online.

The effort to make space for unplaced learners, however, also creates another issue: overcrowding. Shafer said solving that mostly comes down to funding.

Schafer said she will continue to push for more students to get back in the classrooms on a non-rotational basis despite the pandemic because she said she believes the effects of not having students in the classroom was creating lasting harmful effects.

Pictures: MEC Schafer at Perivale Primary

By Ben Rappaport and Danielle Mentoor

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