T’S the same story every year: you promise yourself to start looking for a school for your
child early, only for life and its demands to push finding a school to the very last minute
possible. Getting your child lastminute school admission can be a big headache, not to mention the stress and guilt of thinking that your child might have to stay at home for the year because you kept procrastinating.
WHAT THE LAW SAYS
Before tackling this common problem, let’s find out what the laws says. Section 29 (1) of South Africa’s constitution declares that, “Everyone has the right to a basic education, including adult basic education and to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible”. The South African Schools Act of 1996 stipulates that schooling is compulsory for all South Africans
aged between seven and 15 years. In South Africa, the registration process requires that you apply for admission into a school a year before the intended academic year starts.
This must be done between 1 August and 31 October. Failure to do so can lead to your child not getting a place at the public school of your choice. Be this as it may, the provincial Department of Basic Education is by law forced to find a space in school for every pupil. However, this does not apply to private or independent schools.
USEFUL CONTACTS FINDING THE RIGHT SCHOOL
For a place in a government school, contact the Department of Basic Education, which keeps a list of schools. Most schools have created feeder zones. This means pupils get first
preference when their parents live within the school’s feeder zone. This includes parents who live at their workplace. Other pupils are admitted on a first come, first serve basis. Some may be placed on a waiting list. Ask the school what your chances are. Usually, if you’re in the top 10, you are in. Visit the school on the first day of the term and see if any children have failed to turn up. Schools are forced to work their way down their waiting lists if one child who applied fails to turn up. However, bear in mind that private and government schools don’t work in the same way.
CHOOSING A PRIVATE SCHOOL
If all else fails, look for a private school. There is a growing number of low-fee private schools. Contact the Independent Schools of Southern Africa (ISASA) for their list of schools. Here’s what to ask when looking for a private school:
■ Is the school registered with ISASA?
■ Is the curriculum balanced? Are the class sizes appropriate?
■ Are the school facilities suitable for you child’s interest in sports, music, drama or art?
■ Is the school getting good reviews from other parents?
■ Department of Basic Education:
0800 202 933.
■ Independent Schools of Southern Africa:
011 648 1331. M