School Selection Stress

As most of you know, we are in the process of moving from one province to another. As a contractor’s wife, as soon as you hear where you’re being ‘shipped off to’ next, you do two things:

  • Cry – weather out of relief from leaving the hell hole you’re currently living in, or sadness from leaving a place you feel at home in – it was the later for me this time.
  • Google – after the crying is over, you jump on the internet and furiously google the place you’ll be moving to. As a mother this googling is centred around schools, houses and things to do.

This time the most important on that list is schooling. Our eldest will be starting Grade 1 in January next year, which is a big deal for her and for us. I want to be able to give her the best standard of education we can afford. Education is so important. I believe this to be true, not just for her, but for ALL children. 

The availability and standard of education in South Africa is something that everyone who lives here is concerned about. Let me just put this into context for my readers from other countries. I was quite horrified to hear on the radio last week that there is such a shortage of mathematics teachers in South Africa that the education department are lowering the bar for the education standard so that more students pass maths to enable them to go on to higher education to become teachers. This just absolutely blew my mind!!! Blew. It!

How did I interpret this: instead of providing better resources to help students better understand maths and pass at the current level, they are effectively lowering the pass mark thereby ensuring that there are more future educators who will then go on to teach more children at an inferior level! But that doesn’t matter right, because at least those children will have a teacher to teach them.


Now I barely passed maths at school. Barely. If they had lowered the standard so that I thought I had passed by a mile, and then gone on to teach children, those innocent children would have a horrible teacher who was very confused about integers, fractions and long division. I certainly wouldn’t want someone like me teaching my children!

With that in mind, I am very stressed about how to choose a new school for my girls. Everyone is different, but, as a traditionalist, I have a few criteria that I want to fill:

  • Does the school provide pre-primary and primary school places so that my two girls go to the same school? This is important for me because in my opinion it provides some semblance of continuity for us as a family who move frequently.
  • Is it an English school? My girls and I can’t speak Afrikaans. Whilst I love the Afrikaans schools for many of their qualities, including discipline, and whilst I am sure the girls are ripe for learning the language, I unfortunately fail at languages and so won’t be in a position to help them with homework etc.
  • Does the school provide and promote sports and cultural activities for the children? This is important for me as I strongly believe that sports promotes a healthy lifestyle, and the cultural aspect is another important factor in the “well-rounded education” of children.

There are other things on my wish list too, but they are not all essential:

  • Is it an IEB school – IEB is the International Examination Board. A group of private schools in South Africa. You can read more about them here. Unfortunately these schools come with a very hefty price tag. The fees are astronomical and can quite literally out-price the majority of South African children. They are also few and far between and not available everywhere we move to.
  • Is it a co-ed school – as in boys and girls. I am not sure how I feel about an all-girls school. I guess it has its advantages and disadvantages.
  • What is the distance from where we will be living? Should we choose the school first and then find a house within reasonable driving distance, or find a house and then pick a school based on accessibility from there.

So much of what I have written above comes down to budget though, and something else to consider is does the school have a place available for my girls? Quite often they are full with very long waiting lists.

Having spoken to many people over the past few weeks, and also having done a fair amount of internet research, what has struck me the most is that everyone has different ideas of how they want their children educated, as well as different criteria that they use when choosing schools for their children.

Thank goodness we live in a world where there are choices. Personally the idea of home-schooling my children is something I abhor. As do they (I think). We are taking an extra week off school now and the girls have been whining, and moaning, and complaining, basically begging me to send them back to school for over a week already. That tells me a lot. In fact it tells me a huge amount.

It tells me that they love the current school structure they are in, and that so far we are doing it right.

It tells me that I need to try to find a school that closely matches the school they are currently in.

It reminds me that we need to do whatever we can to ensure that we find the best educators we can afford to ensure that they are getting the best education that we can provide for them. I am sure that this will come with sacrifices, but those sacrifices are their right.

This is a little bit of a confused, frustrated, ranting post, full of my own personal opinions. Don’t hate me for it, we’re all entitled to our opinions.

Whilst this post is filled with my opinions, my thoughts and my wishes for my children, I am not blind to the fact that the traditional school structure does not suit everyone. I am not blind to the fact that any education is better than no education. I am not blind to the fact that everyone has their own criteria of what is best for their children.

At the end of the day we are all just doing the best we can for our children.


One Messy Mama


  1. Author

    Phew that’s a lot. I guess we take it for granted how easy it is here ?
    Well good luck with all the searching and looking forward to hearing the good news when you have found a house and school ?

    1. Author

      Thanks. It’s so hard. Certainly not the fun side of things.

  2. Author

    Oh my what a lot to think about, I hope that putting it all down here helps in some way. I wish you the best of luck!
    When we moved house (we didn’t even move city) the only problem I had was actually finding a school that could take my children..all the schools in the area were pretty much equal in their standards and way of teaching. It was so difficult to find places for all three of them in the same school though and much harder than I had imagined it. We made it in the end though and although we’ve had our ups and downs I’m glad they got into the school they did.

    1. Author

      I realise that they technically could be in separate schools, but that’s not what I want right now. Glad you got yours all together.

  3. Author

    If you are looking for some impartial advice on EL and it’s schools let me know… grew up (was schooled) there, studied education and taught there. I now teach at a private ISASA school in CT, but have many friends who teach in EL and impressed with what is happening in education in my old dorpie πŸ™‚ strongs!

  4. Author

    The local infants is fab but the juniors less so which left me with a dilemma as Matt moves up and Anya starts. Because they are so local it seems foolish to look further afield, plus the juniors has a new headteacher starting so I’ve given it a chance. I will be VERY vigilant about how my son is coping!

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  6. Author

    We are searching for a new place to live, keeping the girls at their current and magnificent school, and trying to then be in a district for when they pass into 7th grade. All very hard places to be! I empathize with you! You are helping me greatly. Especially with liquid management! πŸ™‚ #globalBlogging xoxo

    1. Author

      Good luck with your move. I’m
      Jealous you get to stay at the same school. ?

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