Finding a school for Grade 1- what a mission!

My husband and I recently moved from Durban to Joburg with our 2 little boys, one of whom is approaching Grade 1. When we started looking for a school for him we had no idea what we would have to go through. WOW what a mission, what a process!  We’re still in it and waiting. This is what we’ve had to do so far:

Move homes

We researched and found 2 schools we were interested in. After discovering that they only accepted pupils living within a certain km radius, we decided to move homes to be closer to the schools. Lucky for us we found one  close to both.

Endless documentation

We had to fetch application packs from each school and then collect extensive documentation for both parents with certified copies of Ids, birth certificates, clinic cards, proof of residence and then initialize every page.

Start queueing at 4am or camp out!

The schools set aside 3 days for submissions which they say they only accept on a first come first served basis. This  means that if you are number 13 in the queue your child will be number 13 on the list.

When I queried this with the schools, I was told most parents start lining up outside the schools from about 4 am to ensure they are first on the list

So we found a family member to look after our kids while my hubby and I went to wait in line at 4am. We each chose a different school.  When I got there I was no 3 while he  found he was no 6 in line already!

I discovered that most of the other parents queueing with me had done the same as us. Their partners were also waiting in line at other schools in the region, with some who had  people  who had camped out the night before.

Thank goodness the gates at the school opened for submissions at 5.30 am.  When it was my turn however I discovered I had another questionnaire to fill out, one the Education Department had forgotten to insert in the original submissions packs.

At least I managed to get it all done.  What a relief that stage one is over

Waiting game begins

It’s over but its not, as we were told that we have another 4 months to wait, before we will know whether  our son has been accepted or not.  What happens to those who aren’t?  Do they have to start all over again?

The lengths we as parents have to go to make sure we get the best for our kids. Why does it have to be so hard? What about parents that can’t move houses and find someone to look after their kids so they can queue at 4am? This really doesn’t seem fair

What do you think and can you relate to my experience? Is it the same in other parts of the country outside of Gauteng?

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Shakira Sheikh

Shakira Sheikh

Shakira Sheik, devoted mom to 2 beautiful boys who loves cooking, and crafting.

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42 Responses

    1. its a vicious circle little kids getting up at crack of dawn to travel to school and coming home after dark in winter the goverment should make sure there are enought schools in every suburb and kids should be walking to school with their friends n neighbours .

  1. I had a similar experience with the High School in our area. We moved into the area, so that we would be on the A-list (live & work in the area), I downloaded all the application forms from their website on 9 April and got everything ready. Last Tuesday night, I went to sleep early, hoping to get into the queue at 4am (as applications opened at 6am the next morning) however I recieved a phone call from a friend of mine at 20h00 in the evening letting me know that if I wanted to get my son into the school, I better get to the school and start queueing.My husband and I got there just after 10 and were already 122 in the queue. We camped outside of the school all night and eventually left the high school around 9h30 the next morning. We recieved a slip of paper saying that he was 115th on the A-list but we would only know in August if he has been accepted! I am sure that things will work out but I also know that those parents who started to queue at 4am probably did not stand any chance of getting in as the high school only accepts 300 new scholars for grade 8. If my son doesn't get in I will have no option but to protest or enroll him into a private school!
    Clearly we need more schools – everywehere! Not only townships where there is a dire need but also in the suburbs. Town planning doesn't seem to take account for all the townhouses and complexes that have been built and the additional amount of children that need to go to school!

    1. Hi – it was Randpark High School. It is a really good school, my daughter already goes there, so obviously we want to sent both our kids to the school. I am always impressed with how it is run / managed and it has excellent facilities.

  2. I have found it extremely stressful. Have one child in Grade 0, but not yet accepted into Grade 1. My twins have been rejected at the same school for Grade 0. All the private schools in our area are full. I have decided that I will NOT send them to school and will make a political statement.

  3. I have found it extremely stressful. Have one child in Grade 0, but not yet accepted into Grade 1. My twins have been rejected at the same school for Grade 0. All the private schools in our area are full. I have decided that I will NOT send them to school and will make a political statement, if they are not accepted.

  4. this is beyond shocking. but its a reality. I started applying for my child for grade one the day after his 4th birthday. what's worse is how expensive the private school application fees are (they go up to R2000) and accompanied by the "non-refundable" cruel statement.
    i'm not sure if I am willing to send my child to a school that takes children firstly on how early their parents woke up and not purely on academic merit and potential or sport (in the case of high school).

  5. applying to your local 'zoned' goverment school, also as well as the paper work u need the surname and bank balance to go with what they need!

  6. I feel the pain. The most shocking part is many schools take in applications and the fees knowing they are over subscribed by percentages in the hundreds!!! I applied to 5 schools in the last year as the the school I applied to when he was born did not even communicate with us. Good luck.

  7. Blame Town Planning. 4 homes are bought by a developer, demolished and 100 units go up in a matter of months.No regard for the fact that 100 families with 2 children each need to find schools in their zoned areas. Then there is the traffic as well. Where once 4plots had 8 children between 4 families, and 2 motorcar s per family, there are 200 cars, and maybe 200 children. go figure…..planning is all wrong!! more primary and high schools are needed in our new South Africa.

  8. We put our daughter on the waiting list for our first-choice school when she was 10 months old, and were told she *may* get in by Grade 1 if she's lucky. That's a 6.5 year wait. Yikes.

  9. we've been going through the same thing – but we're trying for Grade R. Apparently if we can get her into a govt school Grade R then she's probably in for life (not necessarily though).
    Our local govt school is not an option for many reasons, so we're trying "out of zone" govt schools – not much chance with some! But… there are ways and means, including getting someone in the area to say that you live at their address, or ditto with a friend who works in the area. It's ridiculous really.
    We put her down for a couple of private schools at age 2 – also told it was "late" and she's unlikely to get in to most of them. Worst of all – we're totally clueless in this whole process – nobody told us when our child was born that you need to put them down for private schools immediately. Nobody told us about zoning and how best to deal with it. Or about the whole 4am scenario. Or what schools are good. etc. etc. One day, I'll write a book!

  10. It is really crazy. I was #3 on the line to apply for Grade R for my son, but got feedback that they got lots of applications do I wish to be put on the waiting list? What the HELL? How do I get to be on the waiting list when I was no.3? They say there's no preference but there is! So; now I'm waiting to hear the outcomes of the waiting list:-(

    1. Went through almost the same thing recently when I tried find a new school for him ..apparently there a fewer Grade 4 classes then there are learners ..& in other schools, they already have their Grade 3's that they give preference to before taking new learners.

    2. Parents start looking for schools as early as when they open in January! I'm so used to what you are talking about. Good and affordable schools fill up very quickly. Kumanje I'm looking for a school for Langa for 2014 in Potch. I've done everything they've asked me to and his first term report is amazing…he has a 90% aggregate and ngikuwaiting list!

  11. There are too few schools. I could not be there by 4am, but 730 and stood in queue for 3and 1/2hrs. I was told he will be last on the list because he'll only be 6 in Feb next yr. Oh well, just wait and see, home school?

  12. I understand the frustion because it was wasn't easy for me as well to a school for my son. The systerm used to accept kids at school is not fair at all! They recommmend that kids should go to local shool, knowing very well that local0scthe servce at local schools is very poor!

  13. I am an expat living in Parkhurst and we are in the middle of this nightmare too. I am seriously paniced that no school (private or govt.) will accept us. The lack of information, these unspoken norms, it's unfair and truly insane!

  14. You have to plan and do your home work if you want to do this as painless as possible.
    We put our daughters'' names down when they were 3 years old to ensure they get into the school we chose. (for grade 1). We did our home work though – We called the school at that time, went to see them, followed their procedures and had no problem getting in. We had to pay an application fee and a deposit when they were accepted. WE also made sure they are in a pre-primary which offered a recognised Grade R class and that the chosen primary school accepts that grade R as a feeder school.
    This is just the way it is in SA if you want your child to get a decent education. You can't put a price on good education – nothing would be too much for me to ensure we get into the right school.

  15. Also, just wanted to say that I did not apply to private schools – I applied to public schools – I thought I was going to have more hassles with private schools and tried to avoid that but it seems its the same either way.

  16. I am currently sitting in the same situation.I think we should have guaranteed instead of waiting long without stressing.This is what causes long lists as we all register in many schools at the same time. What is the solution in this matter?

  17. I tried applying to some private schools when my son was a year old and was told it was too late and I shouldn't bother. Apparently I was supposed to have applied as soon as I had his birth certificate. It really is ridiculous.

  18. I'm now also waiting for my son to be accepted in one of two schools I applied for. The zone story works on my nerves and kids are forced to go to schools you would rather not have them in. I was advised to register to the one school in my area, which I am not happy with. One of the two schools I applied for has put him on the B list…so we also hoping and praying that he gets into one of the two schools we applied for. At least his on the one A list for Grade R. Was also told we can't put in two applications for him in the one school…we waiting to hear from his current creche if they think his ready for Grade 1 and wanted to apply for both grades.

  19. Ladies , we want the best for our kids.but seriously I don't remember my parents going thru this. I went to a private school and want the same for my kids as I believe they will be well rounded individuals.my hubby went to a gov school and lol turned out more well rounded than me. makes you think! I have realized no matter how much we invest in our kids at the end of the day they create there own future.
    Good Luck to me and you!

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