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Sunday, April 1, 2007
Messing around

The admission of learners to ordinary public schools is subject to no less than 16 Acts of Parliament, as amended. They are confusing, sometimes impenetrable, and on occasion obviously inconsistent. The list is not exhaustive:

• The Public Services Act 1994;
• The South African Qualifications Authority Act 1995;
• The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act, 1996;
• The South African Schools Act, 1996 [SASA]; and,
o Regulations relating to the exemption of parents from the payment of school fees in public schools (Government Gazette 29311 of 2006) promulgated in terms of SASA;
• The National Education Policy Act, 1996 [NEPA]; and,
o The Admission Policy for Ordinary Public Schools, (General Notice 2432 of 1998), promulgated in terms of NEPA;
• The Higher Education Act 1997;
• The relevant Provincial School Education Acts for each of the nine provinces, for example, the Western Cape Provincial School Education Act, 1997;
• The Further Education and Training Act 1998;
• The Employment of Educators Act 1998;
• The Public Finance Management Act 1999;
• The South African Council for Educators Act 2000;
• The Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 2000;
• The Adult Basic Education and Training Act 2000;
• The General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act 2001; and,
• The Division of Revenue Act 2003; and certain regulations including.

Anyone who understands all this lot should immediately be given a doctorate from a university of their choice.
Each province in the Republic of South Africa has the responsibility for the provision of school education for learners in that province.
Attendant circulars provide additional guidance and rules, for instance, on managing learner pregnancy in public schools; admission of over-age learners to public schools; and, admission policy for pre Grade R and Grade R learners to Ordinary Public schools.
The Constitution guarantees 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.” [Section 29(1)]. “Everyone” includes non-citizens in terms of the NEPA Admission Policy [Section 19].
In terms of the SASA, schooling is compulsory for all learners from the age of seven years (grade 1) until the last school day of the year in which a learner reaches the age of fifteen years or the ninth grade, whichever occurs first. (Section 3(1))
The SASA requires that every Member of the Executive Council (MEC) responsible for education in a province must ensure that there are sufficient school places so that every child of compulsory school-going age who lives in that province, can attend school [Section 3(3)].
The provision of public schools may include the provision of hostels for the residential accommodation of learners [SASA, section 12(2)].
The MEC must, where reasonably practicable, provide education for learners with special educational needs at ordinary public schools and provide relevant educational support services for such learners [SASA, section 12(4)].
In terms of the NEPA Admission Policy the Provincial Head of Education may determine so-called ‘feeder zones’ [Section 33]. Where these are not determined, as for example, in the case of the Western Cape, then it is illegal for a school to refuse to accept a child living anywhere on the Province on the grounds he is “out of area”. The concept simply does not apply.
Apart from the public school provision of education, learners may be educated at a registered independent school or receive home education.
Home education is a legal, independent form of education, alternative to attendance at a public or an independent school, which is provided by a parent to his or her own child at their home. If necessary for specific areas of the curriculum, the parent(s) may enlist a subject specialist to assist the parents as tutors.
In terms of the SASA [Section 5(5)] and the NEPA [Section (5)] the governing body of a public school determines the admission policy. This policy cannot be inconsistent with the Constitution, the NEPA, the SASA or the relevant Provincial Schools Education Act, and must not frustrate nor prevent such province from fulfilling its Constitutional mandate.
Learners, who apply after October of the year prior to school attendance, shall be accommodated where school places exist, but not necessarily at the nearest school to the learner’s place of residence or at a school of choice.
Every learner shall be entitled to ordinary education at his or her nearest ordinary public school in so far as it is reasonably practicable, and, every learner shall be entitled to equal access to public schools.
The governing body of a public school may not administer any test relating to the admission of a learner to a public school, or direct or authorise the principal of the school or any person to administer such a test.
Schools may not use the process of interviewing parents and learners as a discriminatory screening mechanism prior to admission.
If an application for admission to a public school is refused, the school principal, in his capacity as ‘head of department’ must furnish reasons in writing to the parent for such a decision.
If a learner has been refused admission to an ordinary public school, the parent may appeal to the Provincial Minister of Education (MEC) against the decision. SASA [Section 5(9)].
The period during which applications may be made for admission to public schools usually ends around 15th September of the year, with a second cut off date, November 15th where parents can reapply to schools that still have vacancies.
Schools must inform all parents in writing that their applications for admission have either been successful or unsuccessful and a reason must be given when admission is refused. Successful applicants must accept or reject the allocated place in writing within ten working days. If the parent does not respond in time the learner’s place will be forfeited.
Schools must inform their education management and development centres (EMDC) on a specified form (so-called Annexure A) of the number of any vacancies still open per grade and per medium of instruction. They must also complete and submit Annexure B to show the number and particulars of learners who did not gain admission.
Those that have tuition space must again accept applications. Parents must be notified in writing, within ten working days as to whether they have been successful. Where an application has been unsuccessful, the letter informing the parent must state he should contact the EMDC to obtain admission to an alternative school. The street address of the relevant EMDC and its contact numbers must be provided in the letter.
Schools that still have vacancies must complete Annexure A again, so that EMDC officials can attempt to place learners who have not yet been successful.
The admissions policy of a school is determined by the school governing body. This policy cannot unfairly discriminate against learners in any way. Admission may not be refused because parents or guardians (especially per SASA Section 5(3) and the NEPA Admission Policy [Section]:
• are unable to pay, or haven’t paid, school fees;
• have not provided documents - such as household water and electricity accounts - that prove the parent’s ability to pay school fees;
• do not subscribe to the school’s mission statement;
• have refused to sign an indemnity contract; or,
• are unable to afford all or part of the school uniform.

Schools are not permitted to require the payment of a registration fee. Nor should they interfere with a learner’s educational activities in any other way such as the withholding of a learners report where parents are unable to or have not paid school fees.
Admissions tests are not allowed in terms of SASA [Section 5].
The documents that must be presented by the school to the learner’s parents on applying for admission of the learner to the school include:
• An application form (the school must offer assistance in filling in the form if necessary)
• The admission policy of the school
• The school’s code of conduct

For public schools, the only admission documents parents are required to supply when applying to admit their child to school are:
• the child’s birth certificate
• the child’s immunisation card
• a transfer card or last school report, if the child has already been to another school

A child may be registered provisionally if these documents are not immediately available, and the parents must be given a reasonable time to submit them.
Unless the child has already been expelled from that particular school, all schools must admit students without discrimination of any kind. Schools may not administer tests, or use pre-school experience or language as reasons not to enrol a child.
Everyone has the right to receive education in the official language of their choice in public educational institutions in terms of The Constitution [Section 29(2)].
Exemption of school fees is a separate issue to the ‘quintile’ system introduced by government last year. If both parents (or a single parent, as the case may be) earn in a year less than ten times the school fees for that year (before tax) they may be fully exempted. If what they earn is less than 30 times the school fees the parent should be partially exempted.
For example, if the school fees are R2 000 for the year, a couple earning a combined R20 000 a year or less is fully exempted. Of course, the higher the fees the more people there are who could be exempted. This puts a premium on parents prepared and/or able to pay school fees. For instance even those with a combined gross income of, say, R160 000 a year could in theory avoid paying fees to a school charging R16 000 for the year.
In terms of the SASA [Section 39], school fees may be determined and charged only if a resolution to do so has been adopted by the majority of parents attending an annual general meeting of parents at the school.
A school is legally entitled to sue a parent for unpaid school fees that are due. But it cannot exclude the learner from any of the school activities.
The National Norms and Standards for School Funding, which became national policy in 1999, aims to achieve equality and redress poverty at schools in terms of non-personnel expenditure within a province. For example, the poorest 20% of learners receive 35% of non-personnel resources, while the richest 20% receive 5%.
This was further extended in 2006 with the so-called ‘quintile system’ providing for non-fee paying schools. At present some 40% of public schools (or 13 586) are non-fee based, and this benefits some five million students. Public schools are classified into five groups (20% bands): from quintile 1 (the poorest 20% of schools); up to quintile 5, the richest. As with most things in education the goalposts move around quite a lot, but at the moment Quintile 1 receives about R560 per learner per year from Government, to as low as R125 per learner at schools in Quintile 5.
This is in addition to government-funded teacher posts at the ratio of one educator per 32 learners (senior school), and per 35 learners (junior school), plus a few ‘support’ staff. Although governing bodies are prohibited from making ‘unauthorised payments’ to state employees (that is, government-appointed teachers), permission may be given in terms of SASA [Section 38A by Education Laws Amendment Act 2004]. Failure to obtain permission would mean such payments being recovered from the School Governing Body members (personally).
The SA Council for Educators (SACE) essentially provides for improving and maintaining the standards of teaching. Its main functions are to:
• register and review registration of all educators according to criteria determined by the SACE;
• promote and oversee the ongoing professional development of educators;
• safeguard ethical standards in the profession; and,
• advise the Minister of Education on pertinent issues pertaining to the profession.

By May 2005, almost 490 000 educators were registered, of which about 18 000 were registered provisionally.
In terms of the NEPA Admission Policy [Section 33] provinces may determine so-called ‘Feeder Zones’. Where they do schools have an area it is obliged to favour when admitting students. The order of preference for admission to these schools is:
• Children whose parents live in the school’s feeder zone - this includes parents who live at their place of work, such as domestic workers;
• Children whose parents work in the feeder zone; and then,
• The rest are admitted on a first-come, first-served basis, and may be placed on a waiting list.

However, a parent may nevertheless register his or her child at any public school, and if there are vacancies the provincial department of education is obliged to find a place in school for every learner. By Nigel Benetton

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:20.3 1st April, 2007
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