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Media Release

25 January, 2002

Schools pass the opening test for 2002

Statement by André Gaum, Western Cape Minister of Education.

Over the past week, senior officials of the Western Cape Education Department and I have visited schools across the province to look at how well Western Cape schools have prepared for the 2002 school year.

It is clear that most of our schools are well-prepared, and that many schools completed these preparations before the end of last year.

I was deeply impressed by the commitment and professionalism that thousands of our teachers, principals and school managers have brought to this task.

We found clean, well-managed schools with enthusiastic staff ready to take on the task of teaching our 900 000 learners of the province.

We also found schools that were less prepared, but in the main, we are satisfied that we have made a good start to the year.

Almost all textbooks and other learner support materials were in place on the first day of school, Wednesday, 23 January 2002. Where last-minute deliveries were still due, they did not affect overall requirements materially.

The registration of under-age learners in Grade One has not emerged as a serious problem. The latest figures show that we have received about 1 840 applications, which represents about 2% of last year's enrolment of Grade One learners.

Most schools received very few applications for under-age learners, if any. Where we received larger number of applications, they tended to come from single schools.

The department is committed to processing these applications within seven days. We ask parents to be patient as we do so. Unfortunately, we are dealing with an unusual situation. This issue will be resolved during the course of 2002.

We also thank parents for not inundating us with applications to register under-age learners. I am sure that many parents will find that waiting another year will have been in the best interests of their children.

Our Enrol Early campaign appears to have been successful once again this year. While some schools were still registering learners yesterday, the total numbers of applicants arriving on the first day of school is still well down on that of a few years ago.

We will investigate why learners were still arriving to register at some schools on the first day of term, and will fine-tune our Enrol Early campaign later this year, if necessary.

One reason given for late registrations was that learners migrate to other schools after receiving their end-of-year results, particularly if they have failed.

Another problem that has been identified is learners who return late to school from the Eastern Cape. Our schools are faced with the dilemma of whether to wait for the learner to arrive, or to allocate the place to another applicant. We will need to review policy on this issue.

Teacher attendance was very good. The WCED will investigate all cases of teachers who were absent, and will institute disciplinary action where necessary. Timetables and work allocations were generally completed before the end of 2001.

Our Learner Transport Scheme was running effectively in both rural and urban areas on the first day of term, apart from some minor problems, which were dealt with immediately. These included a new contractor who was unfamiliar with the route. No transport problems were reported today.

We will obtain a clearer picture of the total number of learners enrolled for 2002 after our annual school survey early in February.

Issued by:
The Communications Directorate
Western Cape Education Department
Private Bag X9114
Cape Town 8000
Tel: (021) 467-2531
Fax: (021) 467-2363
Email: pattwell@pawc.wcape.gov.za
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