Chris van Niekerk, Managing Director: Abbotts College

by Tia

In recent years, the challenge of overcrowding in public schools has reached alarming levels, leaving many schools and provinces struggling and often unable to accommodate the influx of Grade 8 student applications.

“We have received numerous calls since the beginning of the year from parents who are quite desperate to find a school for their child who should be starting Grade 8 this year,” says Chris van Niekerk, Managing Director of Abbotts College.

He says while this problem might seem insurmountable to parents, there are other options available which should not be dismissed out of hand because of perceptions about, for instance, affordability or logistical concerns.

“There are many, many parents and students finding themselves in this predicament. While provinces scramble to make alternative arrangements to accommodate Grade 8 learners who have not yet been placed, parents may be rightly concerned both by the clock ticking on their child’s plans for 2024, as well as concerns about the standard of teaching and learning they might encounter under potentially unusual classroom conditions should they be accommodated under temporary arrangements.”

Van Niekerk says those parents who must now either wait, or make alternative arrangements, should investigate their options, as they might just find an alternative path that works for both the child and the family.

These options include:

  • Private Schools: Private schools with a reputation for quality education and smaller class sizes can provide a more personalised learning experience. The idea of “private school” is often dismissed out of hand because of perceptions about affordability, however before eliminating this option, parents should contact potential schools and at least enquire whether it would not be within their means to send their child to a private school.
  • Homeschooling: Some parents explore the option of homeschooling, ensuring direct involvement in their child’s education and tailoring the curriculum to individual needs. There has been an explosion in homeschooling in recent years, with countless resources available to parents who opt for this route.
  • Online Education: Exploring online education platforms can be a viable alternative, especially in today’s digital age, offering flexibility and personalised learning. It is important to establish the credentials of an online school before signing up with one, but schools such as, for instance, Evolve Online School, has an excellent reputation both for academic excellence as well as non-academic and holistic development of students.

“Every child is entitled to a quality education. While we understand the challenges schools and provinces, in particular the Western Cape and Gauteng, face with overwhelming student numbers, parents are not entirely powerless. This situation is undoubtedly placing immense pressure on families, but it is important to understand and investigate options,” says Van Niekerk.

“In addition to not being placed, other students find themselves in a situation where they have been placed at schools that were not part of their consideration list or, for practical reasons, simply would not be a fit. Common issues such as distance from home and transport problems can significantly impact the selection of an ideal educational institution. Considering these challenges, it may be prudent for parents to consider private education as an alternative.

“While we know this may not be an option for all families, schools such as Abbotts College, which are committed to providing a positive and enriching educational experience have become a lifeline for thousands of families who previously didn’t consider private education a viable option.”

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