You know that I'm a big advocate for South African schools. Here and here and here are just some examples of why I think sending our children to Dainfern College versus the American International School was absolutely the right decision.
However, just as my readers are starting to be convinced by those arguments and are inquiring at South African private schools for spots for their children, those schools are telling them more and more often that there is no space, and that the waiting list for a particular class is already 25 deep.
It seems there is an extreme shortage of private school spots in Johannesburg. I don't know how Cape Town fares in comparison. If you have a choice between those two cities, the school situation might be an important factor to consider.
The good news is, this problem is not present at all grade levels. Anything from Grade Four upwards is not typically a problem, and especially high school (grades 8-12) is easy to get into. There are many more high schools than elementary schools, and because many South Africans send their children to a boarding school for high school, these spaces open up at the regular high schools so that they are quite happy to take on new students. Even if you have, say, a 2nd grader with siblings in grade Four and Seven, then most likely the school will accommodate the 2nd grader because they like to fill the higher grades. However, if your oldest or only child is anywhere from grades 0-3, then most likely you will find it extremely difficult to secure a spot for them.
Even if you've decided to send your kids to the American International School, you might face the same problem. American nationals have preference, but from what I've heard the space there is limited as well, so don't assume that just because you're Americans that your children are automatically admitted.
If you are currently in the process of thinking about an assignment in South Africa, you need to address the school question right away, before you do anything else. Make a list of schools, and contact them as soon as you can to see if they have space. The earlier you can enroll your child, or at least put him or her on the waitlist, the better your chance of securing a spot.
I'm sorry that I don't have better news. I just wanted to make sure you understand how important it is to find a school in Johannesburg before you do anything else.
Also see: Private Schools in Johannesburg