Back to school, back to reality

The Gauteng Education Department says it has completed 98 percent of school admissions.

Pupils from Phomolong secondary school in Tembisa will this year be using tablets in the classroom. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Gauteng Education Department says it's done everything it can to ensure that the first day of school goes as smoothly as possible.

Today, Gauteng primary schools are expecting to welcome around 105,000 grade ones and around 73,000 pupils will begin their high school careers. Sixteen new schools across the province will open their gates for the first time today.

This year will also see 17 schools spearhead a paperless classroom initiative in which pupils will use computers and tablets instead of textbooks.

WATCH: EWN goes inside the paperless classroom

Gauteng Education says it has completed 98 percent of school admissions and 15 district offices have been set up to place the remaining pupils.

On 1 June, the department will launch a school training programme which will see well-resourced schools merge with their less fortunate counterparts, meaning there will be one principal, one governing body and one bank account for each project.

The department will also face the task of dealing with six exam centres implicated in the 2014 matric exam group cheating scandal.

Meanwhile, civil rights group Section 27 says it will continue to monitor the Basic Education Department to ensure that the right to education is realised by every child this year. This includes monitoring the delivery textbooks and well as adequate sanitation to schools.

Section 27's Nikki Stein says, "There are big challenges in the education of learners and particularly vulnerable learners in the more rural areas. Although we've seen improvements in some of the aspects of delivery in education there is still a lot of room for improvement."

Lobby group Equal Education says government is too preoccupied with matric results. It wants more focus being placed on improving the quality of education from grade one.

Last year's matric results saw a drop in the pass rate which has been largely attributed to the implementation of a new curriculum.

Equal Education's Tshepo Motsepe says standards need to be improved at all levels of schooling.

"We would like them to remain committed and accountable, not just to the learners and the school governing bodies but to the whole system."