Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: FILE PHOTO
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: FILE PHOTO

The Gauteng education department said on Thursday that it had buried apartheid spatial planning in the province.

“Today we are officially releasing the first post-apartheid education feeder zones that will finally bury apartheid spatial planning in our education system. The gazette (when adopted) will now allow our schools to recruit learners across all communities‚” education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said.

Answering a tweet from a follower‚ Lesufi said: “Just because education must be for all‚ NOT the privileged few. Why should standards drop? Is it because we must not access quality education? Or is it standards are always white? Our kids also deserve better education.”

This comes after the Constitutional Court directed the department on May 20 2016 to determine feeder zones for public schools in the province. A feeder zone is one of the criteria a  school should use when admitting pupils. It refers to the area from which a school accepts its core intake of children. Feeder zones used to be close to the relevant school. That has now changed.

The maps of the 2‚067 feeder zones were finalised for consultation; 334 schools contested their proposed feeder zones.

Feeder zones will be reviewed every three years. If a school governing body (SGB) is unhappy it can appeal the assigned feeder zone within 30 days. There are no feeder zones for special schools because they cater for learners with specific needs and competencies.

Explaining the change‚ Gauteng education deputy director general Albert Chanee said: “If there are 1‚000 seats in a school‚ everyone gets in‚ regardless from where they come. If there are more applications than seats, the department will look at the feeder zone within a 30km radius for applications. People that are within 30km will have preference.”

If there are still too many applications‚ the department will look at distance‚ whether a sibling attends the school, and whether the parents work in the area.

Schools now have to submit their admission‚ language and finance policies to the department for approval.

Radical shift

Gauteng education spokesperson Steve Mabona said the new feeder zones are a “radical shift in addressing the negative impact of apartheid spatial planning ... Our schools cannot justify any form of discrimination against any learner.”

Mabona said schools should be accessible to keep learners safe.  “Travelling long distances to schools contributes to learner absenteeism. The lack of sleep because of learners leaving home at dawn‚ coupled with the strenuous effect of long commuting to school‚ leads to mental and physical fatigue that has a negative effect on learner concentration and contributes to poor learner performance.”

He added: “We must emphasise that the adjudication process was in favour of about 90% of schools that contested and recommended adjustments to their feeder zones‚ which were implemented accordingly.

“The remaining 10%, unfortunately, misrepresented their feeder zones‚ confusing the 30km application radius with the feeder zone determination, which was not provided for in terms of the criteria for determining feeder zones.”

The department consulted Stats SA‚ Equal Education‚ the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools‚ the National Association of School Governing Bodies‚ the Governing Body Foundation‚ the Municipal Demarcation Board‚ the Gauteng City Region Observatory, and the premier’s office for spatial planning in the process.