Education department told court that learners would be in school this week. It hasn’t happened

Seven learners placed in schools but some cannot get to them

By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

3 June 2022

The Cape High Court is hearing a case about unplaced learners in the Western Cape. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks

It’s been a week since the Western Cape Education Department told the Cape High Court that seven unplaced learners would be starting school.

One of those learners was 17-year-old Simthandile Sikeyi from Mitchells Plain. Following our report on Sikeyi’s two-year battle to find placement at a school in the district, officials from the department contacted Sikeyi and informed her that she would be placed at a school in Ottery. At the time, Sikeyi told GroundUp that she was excited after receiving the phone call as she was losing hope of ever starting high school this year.

When we followed up with her this week, a visibly disappointed Sikeyi was still at home. Apparently the education department is yet to arrange transport to the school in Ottery because her grandmother cannot afford the transport costs.

“When the official called my brother telling him that I will be placed in a school, I was over the moon with joy. But now they have been quiet and I’m worried. I already wasted the whole of last year sitting at home doing nothing. The call brought me hope but now I don’t know what to do or say,” Sikeyi said.

During the court case brought by the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) last week, advocate Ewald De Villiers-Jansen for the department, assured the court that all of the seven learners represented in the matter had since been allocated places at schools.

But EELC senior attorney, Chandre Stuurman said that parents have reported “difficulties” with the placements. She said they were informed about one of the learners who was told that they are too old to start the grade and was instead told to approach an FET college.

Stuurman said only two of the seven learners are currently attending school. “This is disappointing given that the Department indicated in court that all learners would be placed,” she said.

Stuurman said parents or caregivers were issued with placement letters by the Metro East Education District between 11 May and 19 May 2022. “All the parents or caregivers, except for one, accepted the placement offers and expected learners to start school on Monday [30 May],” said Stuurman.

In response to our questions, WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond indicated that she couldn’t comment because the matter is still in court.