The Department of Basic Education on Tuesday briefed the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on the state of readiness for the 2016 academic year.
The department attributed the late applications to parents who ignore the published closing dates and parents from rural communities who move to big cities at the beginning of the year to lodge applications.
“Informal settlements that spring up around established communities due to an influx from rural to urban areas also present a challenge as it is difficult to predict enrolment numbers ahead of the new year,” Deputy Director General for District Support, Coordination and Monitoring at the department, Palesa Tyobeka, told Members of Parliaments.
Tyobeka said this was challenging in urban areas and impacted negatively on a whole range of provisioning issues such as classroom space, teachers and textbooks.
English medium schools perceived as providing "better quality" also face an annual challenge of managing and accommodating all the applications they receive, she said.
The department has over the years strengthened its monitoring to ensure an effective start to the academic year by requiring that all learners be registered in schools by September of the preceding year.
Tyobeka said this enables the department to plan for the upcoming year, particularly to manage areas and schools that historically have larger than normal applications or areas where there is an outmigration of learners.
Another challenge identified by the department is tension between the rights of School Governing Bodies to determine the admissions policy in terms of the South African Schools Act and the right of parents to access education at schools of their choice.
Getting learning material to school on time
Tyobeka said provinces have made progress in terms of delivering textbooks and workbooks and now the emphasis is on retention and retrieval of books given to learners.
“The Department of Basic Education has developed a sector plan to guide provinces with the procurement and delivery of learning and teaching support materials.
According to the sector plan, delivery of material should be done between September and October 2015,” Tyobeka told MPs.
Key infrastructure issues for 2016 include the provision of adequate classroom space for all learners registered in the system and to ensure that educators have work space to enable proper learning and teaching to take place.
The department is already working to ensure that basic services such as water, sanitation and electricity are provided in line with school enrolment. The primary responsibility to ensure readiness for 2016 academic year has been placed at district level
“The role of districts in ensuring effectiveness in schools has been enhanced and teams are in place to prepare the system for next year,” said Tyobeka.