WCED schools National Shutdown

School children walk through the city centre in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo via: Ashraf Hendricks / GroundUp

WCED plans to find schools for 2550 learners who missed the first term

Schools in the Western Cape are chock-a-block but the WCED has a plan to get more than 2000 learners who missed out on the first term back into classrooms.

WCED schools National Shutdown

School children walk through the city centre in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo via: Ashraf Hendricks / GroundUp

More than 2000 learners in the Western Cape did not attend classes during the first school term of 2021 because there was no place for them. The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) intends to get them placed in schools by the start of the second term, which begins on 3 May 2021.


The provincial education department said it currently working on a plan that will see the 2550 learners currently deemed “unplaced”, according to departmental records, set up in classrooms in time for the second term.

As part of the plan, 129 mobile classrooms and additional teachers will be allocated to schools. The mobile classrooms, however, take a while to construct and cannot be distributed immediately but the schools that received extra teachers have agreed to house learners in alternative, makeshift, classrooms such as school halls or laboratory spaces.

“The WCED is well aware that these learners have missed a full term of work,” said the department. “The most important thing is that these learners will be placed in schools — ready  to begin the second term.”

The department said the struggle to find places by a lack of funding and said the placement plan would not be possible without additional funding. Existing funds were used to facilitate the enrolment of these learners and will likely have a detrimental impact on the department’s future budget allocations and long-term plans.


“I must go on record and be clear: Western Cape schools are full,” said provincial education leader Debbie Schafer.

She said the department will struggle to place learners in future unless it receives more schools, teachers and additional funding, as learner numbers are expected to grow.

“If the trend of in-migration also continues without additional funding, the problem will be insurmountable,” said Schafer.

According to the WCED, new “first-time registrations” of learners from other provinces and countries adds to the growth of the school attending population in the province. The department said it placed 21 021 new learners in 2020 and 19 452 learners in 2021.

Schafer urged parents not to wait until the last minute to find a place for their children in the next school year.


In Eerste River and Mfuleni in the northern suburbs of Cape Town, the department is experiencing added difficulty in placing pupils because some vital information is hard to come by, including learner names, IDs, addresses and previous school records.

The WCED has some success in tackling an “illegal” school in Eerste River, with approximately 200 learners, popped up under the trees in the area. The department said it was able to verify and place 111 of the rogue school’s pupils and a further 99 were informed about their placement.

“It is interesting to note that of the 111 learners, 83 had been registered at and had been attending other schools,” said Schafer.

The learners’ parents apparently withdrew their children from legitimate schools for reasons unknown. A similar situation is unfolding in Rosendal, where learners left schools they were registered at and the parties involved are demanding that the WCED recognise the “illegal” schools.

“We have tried time and time again, even with a police escort, to try and get the detailed list of learners needing placement. Unfortunately, much like the Eerste River site, the people ‘in charge’ have been uncooperative,” said Schafer.

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