Pre-school in South Africa – Application & Requirements

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Pre-school in South Africa

The education system in South Africa is not compulsory for children until the age of 7 years old. Until then, you have the choice to send your child to a nursery and Grade R pre-school.

There are two preschool systems in South Africa: one is funded by the government and regulated provincially, and the other is independent and run by communities or private bodies.

Both the government and private programs consist of two main components: Pre-Grade R and Grade R programs (Reception Year). Pre-Grade R programs are intended for children between 0-4 years of age, and Grade R programs are appropriate for 5-6 year-olds. Lessons focus on language, mathematics, life skills, technology, arts and culture.

How pre-schools work in South Africa

Schools in South Africa are either run by the state or a private educational institution. Parents are free to choose to enroll your child in any school that is registered with the Provincial Education Department providing there are vacancies.

Before choosing a preschool or day care facility, ask locals for recommendations and check the school is registered with the Provincial Education Department.

It should be noted that most preschools are assigned to one of the local schools in the feeder zone, so you should consider thinking long-term and decide which school you want your child to attend before choosing a preschool.

The general rule in South Africa is that children can attend any school you wish. However, children that live in the feeder zone surrounding the school receive priority. If you live outside the catchment area, schools will accept students on a first come, first served basis providing there are vacancies.

Applying to a South African preschool

When applying to enrol your child in a preschool, you must provide the following documentation:

  • Your child’s birth certificate and residence permit
  • Immunisation card
  • School report and transfer card if your child has attended a school previously
  • If your child does not have South African citizenship, you will have to acquire a study permit and present this with your application

Schools have the right to refuse admission to students in accordance with government policies. However, your child cannot be refused admission in the following circumstances:

  • You did not pay school fees in a previous school
  • If you do not agree with the school’s mission statement
  • You refuse to sign an injury waiver
  • Late admission
  • If you can’t afford books or school uniform
  • When your child is not a South African citizen
  • If your child has problems with the language
  • In case your child has a disability
  • If your child is HIV
  • For racial, religious or cultural differences

Expats in South Africa rarely have difficulties finding your child a preschool in South Africa. However, if you are refused admission, you can request a formal enquiry by contacting the Department of Basic Education on their free hotline: 0800 202 933 and ask for the Department of Education Rights Project.

If you want to enrol your child in a private school, you will find a list of appropriate schools in your area on this website.

Choosing a preschool in South Africa

It is not compulsory for children to attend pre-school in South Africa. Therefore, parents can choose whether you want to enroll your child in a state school or organize an early development program privately. You may also want to consider whether your child is ready for pre-school mentally and emotionally.

Whilst choosing a pre-school in South Africa, you should first visit the school without your child. This gives you a chance to speak with the teachers and learn more about the Grade R curriculum. Check also if their regulations and facilities fall in line with government policies. Pre-schools typically open at 08.30 or 0900 and close at 5-6pm.

Below is a list of suggestions provided by Huggies that offers advice for parents looking for a preschool in South Africa.

  • Ask for a copy of the Grade R curriculum and a program that outlines the weekly focus
  • Ask about their rules and whether they have an open-door policy
  • Check the facilities for space, cleanliness, and security
  • Ask about the toys and activities available
  • Enquire whether toys undergo regular cleaning
  • Check if there is a noticeboard and how the school contacts parents
  • Ask what the ratio of teachers to children is (the legal requirement is one teacher for 25 children over 3 years old)
  • Observe the behavior of other children and how teachers interact with students.

On the second visit, take your child to test their reaction. This will give them the opportunity to meet teachers and other children and determine whether they like the environment. If you have reservations about how your child might cope at pre-school, ask the teachers if they think your child is ready for pre-school.

Enrolling your child in pre-school or for childcare in South Africa

The school year in South Africa starts in January. Parents must enroll children between 1 August and 31 October the preceding year. Grade R applicants must be four years old and turn five by the 30 June of the school year. Grade one applicants must be five and turn six by 30 June.

Note: If you have questions or corrections regarding this post, kindly use the comment box below.

By stevo

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