#BackToSchool: Thousands head back to classrooms for 2019 academic year

The Department of Basic Education says that it is ready for the 2019 school academic year.

Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG - Thousands of children across the country will return to the classroom on Wednesday morning, marking the start of the 2019 school year.

Eight new schools, including three mobile schools, will be opening their doors to alleviate the pressure on existing places of learning in the Western Cape.

They've been set up in communities like Ocean View, Delft and Kraaifontein.

The Western Cape Education Department says that it expects a late influx of learners from the Eastern Cape at schools across the province.

The department's Bronagh Hammond says this includes children who have travelled to the Eastern Cape over the holidays and are now returning, as well as new students.

"We've already seen about 6,000 from the Eastern Cape involve for Western Cape schools in 2019, which puts a bit of a strain on us, and we're expecting some more. We do expect that there will be areas where we will find problems in terms of accommodation and we are just making plans wherever we can to resolve that."

As the new academic year begins for schools, guardians and learners, the price of stationery and uniforms is being placed under the spotlight.

Many schools require specific brands of stationery and have their uniforms sold at selected stores, which are often pricier than alternative brands.

Parents say this puts undue financial pressure on them, especially after the December period when money is spent.

One man explained the stationery spending for his two sons: "They force you buy shatterproof rulers, they force you to buy Oxford dictionaries... He's in grade 3 and his stationery bill came to R800. His [the other son] is probably going to come to about R3,000 or R4,000 because I have to buy every book that he needs."

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Meanwhile, the Department of Basic Education says that it is ready for the 2019 school academic year.

Inland schools around the country are expected to begin the first day of school today, with millions of new and returning learners set to sit their first class of the year but the department says it also expects to deal with a number of challenges.

As the first day of the 2019 academic year starts, the Department of Basic Education says it's well prepared.

Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga: "We believe that the majority of our schools are going to start teaching in earnest when learners arrive at school."

Mhlanga says they are aware that the first day of school always brings with it challenges.

"In Gauteng, they still have about 17,000 unplaced learners and that's the challenge they have to deal with. Overall, the majority of our schools will be able to commence [with classes]."

He says that close to 1 million new grade one learners are expected to start school today.

"We always start with a million and with those learners, we are going to work hard to retain them in the education system because we want to see all of them finishing their schooling."

The department says that Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga will be in KwaZulu-Natal this morning visiting schools who performed dismally last year.