Online applications for grade one, eight only

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The online process for school placement of Gauteng learners won't be expanded past grades one and eight for now.
The online process for school placement of Gauteng learners won't be expanded past grades one and eight for now.

The Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) has no plans "yet" to expand online registrations to include other grades, according to MEC Panyaza Lesufi.

Earlier this year, Gauteng education introduced its online learner admissions Web site that required parents of leaners entering grade one and eight in 2017 to use the portal for school placement. Motivated by a need to minimise long queues during school registration time, the department moved to make the process more tech-savvy.

According to the GDE, it decided to introduce a digital system for school registrations after receiving more than 30 000 late applications in 2015.

However, the department's online school registration process suffered a number of hiccups. The site crashed on debut, parents experienced technical glitches when trying to register their children, and there were a high number of hacking attempts.

Commenting on plans to extend the online system to include other grades, Lesufi told ITWeb: "I am tempted to increase it but we still have teething problems, so I don't want to risk it. I think we will keep it to grade one and eight again, until I am quite convinced that the system has stabilised."

Legal drama

While the department weathered the furore created by the introduction of the Gauteng schools online registration process for the 2017 academic year, it was hit with allegations that the idea of the site was stolen.

In July, Johannesburg-based IT entrepreneur Melissa Laing claimed the GDE stole her concept for an online school registration site.

Meanwhile, last month, it was reported the office of the Public Protector is also investigating the claims levelled against the GDE.

Lesufi acknowledges the allegations brought against the department, but says he is convinced the idea was not Laing's.

He explains: "I thought she came with the software and said this is the software, to test it if it works. [But] she came with a PowerPoint presentation and said this process of doing registrations on paper is not right.

"For the admission process to work, it must be written in a certain language of software, but if you say the idea to convert from paper to online is yours ? I mean how many admission sites are there?

"That's why I felt let us go to court and the courts will decide whether this was her idea or not. Ideas are there... She didn't give us the actual digital program but we had our own people that programmed it, did the language and did everything for it to comply with the rules of admissions."

Lacklustre uptake

Although the department introduced the online application process to ease parents' anxiety of placement for their children, the uptake in the targeted areas was not as great as the GDE had hoped.

This was despite the fact that the GDE conducted various educational drives for the online learner application Web site.

Lesufi says in affluent areas the uptake was brilliant, but in poorer communities "the appetite has been bad, to be quite frank".

"The numbers in the poor areas are not that encouraging. There are schools that didn't even receive a single application, so we need to fix that part before we can broaden up; we need to ensure that either community libraries or the WiFi rollout by the municipality is broader so that people can be assisted to make an application," he says.

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