The 2024 academic year has started but there are still some parents and pupils who are queuing at school gates and university administration buildings looking for a place.
The start of the year always comes with problems and challenges that no one is ready to solve on time.
Every year when schools open, I get calls from parents complaining about the hardship they have to place children at preferred schools or at other schools they have applied to.
On the other hand the schools are complaining about the parents who are not applying online. As we speak the queues are unbelievable at schools and that’s every year. We are in the second week of school but there are young people who are still not in the classroom. Many blame the online application.
I feel that the online application is not helping both parties, the department and the parents. It doesn’t favour anyone. As a village boy, I can say loudly that online applications highlight the harsh reality of inadequate infrastructure. Unlike schools in the urban areas or cities, schools in the villages are falling apart. The education is in tatters. Schools are being closed because of the low numbers, I am told.
High schools are becoming fewer and fewer. Again, I am of the view that the challenge is the online application.
I feel many schools and parents in those areas cannot manage the online system as they cannot even access the internet. Most parents, even teachers for that matter, are technologically challenged. It must be said that inequality is one of the biggest obstacles preventing the country from giving rural children a fair and quality education.
I have seen and heard that the education department encourages parents and their children to go to the schools and get help. But in the villages most of the schools do not have laptops or computers but they are expected to apply online.
The advantage of the urban schools is that the system sends its workers to schools to help the applicants. But let me assure you even with that help, parents still do not get the placements. Or they do but not in the schools of their preferred choice. That is where it gets complicated. Some do not have knowledge of where their children are placed.
Let us look at our matric pupils. How many have applied and how many will they get placement at the tertiary institutions? This is one level of education parents seem to ignore. They assume that matriculants are mature enough to apply for their institution of their choice. But does that happen? I do not know. The generation of children we have is not like the 1980s. They take things easy, even their future.
That is why every year you will find them wondering where they will get school or tertiary education. I feel with them there is no proper plan for the next year. But I have to say that urgent solutions are needed to address all the hurdles from primary school to the university.
Pupils’ eventual choice of a career should also occupy an important place on the agendas of schools and the education department. I feel the department is also not helping especially in deep rural areas.
A big shout to the class of 2023. I wish them all the best in getting to the tertiary institutions.