Little room for learning

It’s that time of year again when parents, some with relief and some with despair, talk about whether they managed to get their children into the high school of their choice. But with applications exceeding spaces, more and more parents are being disappointed.

“I am critically concerned about the near future,” said Fish Hoek High principal Gavin Fish reflecting on the Grade 8 enrolments. “Clearly my intake cannot match the demand and alternatives are the expense of private schooling or travelling over the mountain.” I stand to correction, but to the best of my knowledge Masiphumelele High, Ocean View and Simon’s Town are heavily oversubscribed.

“With the continued housing developments in the valley and near surrounds, I fear that there is completely insufficient high school space.”

Fish Hoek High can take 217 Grade 8 pupils, which translates into seven classes of 31 each. Mr Fish said that about 360 pupils apply for those 217 spaces, so more than one in three applicants will be disappointed. Mr Fish said the number of applicants has remained more or less constant in the past few years.

Principal of Ocean View Secondary, Keith Klein, said that they were getting more applicants for Grade 8 for their school compared to previously. They had space for 250 Grade 8s but by the closing date had applications from 280.

For all schools, pupils have to have applied by the closing date in March. These figures do not take into account late applications.

Other schools in the Far South did not give requested information to the Echo.

Johann Kikillus, a Kommetjie parent and community worker in Ocean View, said that parents had been struggling with this problem.

He said that in April last year, he was asked to look for a placement at a high school for a Kommetjie Primary Grade 7 pupil.

“I went to Fish Hoek High School where I was told that they have a very long waiting list.

“I looked at the WCED website and found that, at that time, there were eight primary schools in the valley with a total of 6527 pupils. There are also only three high schools in the valley (Kommetjie/Noordhoek/Fish Hoek) and, back then, they had a total of 3422 pupils. It must also be noted that Ocean View and Masiphumelele High schools were hopelessly overcrowded at the time. I took the matter up with MEC Debbie Schäfer, Mark Wiley and the head of department of education.

“This year I have noted that the situation is getting worse – mostly because the population for the Far South is increasing at an alarming rate. Masiphumlele is growing as well as Ocean View.

“I have had to find placement for several high school pupils at Ocean View and they have been sent to Steenberg which is over the mountain.

“Kommetjie has a major problem as the mayor of Cape Town has passed several hundred houses for development. The pupils at Redhill also have to travel far. There is nowhere to place these children,” said Mr Kikillus.

“When I asked a high level official where Kommetjie and Scarborough pupils are supposed to attend high school, I was informed that there are very good private schools over the mountain. Many of us are not in a position to afford private schools. And then there is the traffic problem.

“It is unacceptable that this pressure has been put on us. The poor are going to suffer the most,” he said.

When asked why the City approved plans for more housing when there were insufficient schools for the people currently living in the area, mayoral committee member for energy, environment and spatial planning Johan van der Merwe commented: “It is important to remember that the provision of educational facilities – as with facilities such as police stations – should respond to residential development as envisaged in the City’s spatial plans and not dictate it.”

He said that the City approved applications in line with its Spatial Development Framework and the Southern District Plan. He said that the provision of facilities such as schools were taken into account when drawing up these policies but “would also be considered when assessing any land use application where additional rights are being sought”.

When asked for comment on these specific issues, Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for education MEC Debbie Schäfer, said they were aware of the challenges in our area, speaking about the challenges of having 25000 additional pupils coming to the Western Cape from other provinces in the past three years.

Asked about children expecting to go to neighbourhood schools, or what to do about children such as in Scarborough, Kommetjie or Welcome Glen which didn’t have high schools, Ms Shelver said that the WCED didn’t work this way.

“The Western Cape Government opted not to apply feeder zones, to maximise choice and to redress the legacy of apartheid spatial planning,” she said.

She said that school governing bodies determined the schools’ admissions policy, subject to the Constitution and relevant legislation.

Mr Fish said that Fish Hoek High gave preference to pupils residing south of Atlantic Road, Muizenberg. They also looked at academic achievement as reflected in recent school reports and needed to have proven and appropriate academic ability (eg must have passed Grade 7 for admission to Grade 8 with English Home Language and Afrikaans First Additional Language. The school looked for specialised skills or talents which the school had the potential to develop or facilitate, as indicated in the application or reported in the interview as well as looking for a good disciplinary record as reflected in a recommendation from the applicant’s present school. The presence of siblings at the school was taken into account. The child’s age had to be within two years of the average of the grade and, importantly, the complete application for admission had to be received by the closing date (second Friday of March).

Asked what hope the department could offer to parents in the Far South, with not enough school space for the children in the area’s schools, Ms Shelver said they needed to contact the WCED.

“We have appointed officials in every district whose job it is to work with schools to find places for every child, and to arrange additional accommodation, as required,” she said.

The relevant contact person for Metro South was Lynn Primo on 021 370 2000, 021 370 2035 or .

She said that the WCED had developed an online admission system that assisted them with admission, using this to track admissions and identify available places.

“So to sum it up in one sentence – absolutely nothing will be done to address the issue,” commented Mr Kikillus.

[optional extra – BLOB or box]

The process for getting into a high school starts early. For Fish Hoek High, for instance, their open day for next year’s Grade 8s was held on February 1 where the 2017 application forms were available for the first time. The due date for 2017 Grade 8 submission was March 11. Letters were posted to all applicants who applied by the due date on June 24, advising families as to the outcome of their applications. Applicants who were declined had the opportunity to submit an appeal by August 1. Families were notified by August 31 as to the outcome of their appeal.