Rochelle de Kock and Lynn Williams
THE Eastern Cape Education Department has issued a stern warning to all principals of schools, both public and former Model C schools, to adhere to the school admission policy by not placing pupils at a disadvantage through denying them access to schools.
The warning, issued by education superintendent-general Modidima Mannya on Friday, came after a large number of pupils were turned away from schools last week due to classroom overcrowding.
Mannya said he was giving school heads 48 hours “to review all applications to their schools and ensure that all the decisions taken are within regulations and that no pupil is disadvantaged because of neglect or ignorance”.
He said: “It has come to my attention that some of our schools in the province are either willfully or out of neglect, flouting the official admission policy of the department for entry by qualifying pupils into public ordinary schools. These tendencies amount to subliminal forms of exclusion for some of our pupils, and have left a number of parents frustrated and in distress as they face an uncertain future for their children.
“The right of equal access to basic education and to educational institutions is not only enshrined in the Constitution but has been embedded in the SA Schools Act. Schools are expected to develop admission policies that are consistent with national policy and laws.
“I am compelled to send out an urgent instruction and warning to all principals of public ordinary schools, especially those of former Model C schools, to ensure that they adhere to the letter and spirit of the national pupil admission policy, as spelt out in the SA Schools Act.”
He reminded principals and school governing bodies that the admission policy of a school might not discriminate unfairly against applicants.
“Pupils are entitled to education at the nearest school, insofar as it is reasonably practical.
“The administering of tests or interviews for the sake of admission is illegal, including the use of pre-school experience as a requirement for admission to Grade R or Grade 1. Only when it would be in the educational interest of the pupil, may he or she be requested by the school to undertake a suitable test to assist a placement decision.”
Parliament‘s basic education portfolio chairman, Hope Malgas, will be in Nelson Mandela Bay today for a meeting with her provincial and district counterparts to discuss ways of accommodating those pupils who cannot find a place in school.
ANC MPL Christian Martin said there were about 100 pupils in Nelson Mandela Bay who could not find a place in school. The situation was unacceptable, he said, because they had a basic right to education. “We invite all parents and principals to attend the meeting.”
Many schools in Nelson Mandela Bay had to turn away scores of parents who waited until the eleventh hour to register their children last week. Principals said they could not accommodate pupils because their schools were already overflowing.
The meeting will take place at the education department‘s district office from 8am today.