Orange Farm parents relieved after successful online applications

2017-05-02 19:01
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi and a department official helps Thembisa Mkhuzo apply for both her children, who are going to Grade 1 and 8. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi and a department official helps Thembisa Mkhuzo apply for both her children, who are going to Grade 1 and 8. (Mpho Raborife, News24)

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Johannesburg - Two mothers who woke up early on Tuesday morning to ensure that they could secure a placement for their children in the upcoming academic year say they are pleased with the efficiency of the online process.

Thembisa Mkhuzo who was one of the first people in the province to successfully registered her application for her son and daughter who would be going to Grades 1 and 8, respectively.

The 34-year-old's application was processed by Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi around 08:00 on Tuesday morning shortly after he and Gauteng Premier David Makhura officially launched the site in Orange Farm.

Mkhuzo said when she heard about the online applications in 2016, she was apprehensive about it.

"I was nervous, wondering if it was going to give me problems.

"Even this morning on my way here I was nervous, but I knew that the MEC would help us. That's why I didn't want to do it on another day. I wanted to make sure I came today," Mkhuzo said.

Intimidated

Both her children's applications had gone smoothly and she received SMSes notifying her of its success.

She had opted for schools close to where they lived and was hoping they would be admitted there because it would take them roughly 10 minutes to walk, she said.

There were some parents who were still intimidated by the idea of online applications but after experiencing the process herself, she said she would encourage them to visit the walk-in centres.

Lesufi officially launched the online application system in 2016 despite some resistance and criticism from parents and some schools in the province.

Within hours of the applications site going live, it crashed. Lesufi said at the time that the initial server could only take 600 users per second. Vodacom was subsequently approached and had agreed to upgrade the servers to accommodate 20 000 users.

On Tuesday morning, more than 25 000 successful applications had been registered in the site's first hour live.

During a state of readiness report last week, Lesufi had told reporters that the department had learnt a lesson from the 2016 experience and the site this year would be able to handle more than double the amount of users per second.

A total of 357 447 online applications were made in 2016, with Grade 1s at 198 493, while the Grade 8s were at 158 954, he said.

Glitches

Lesufi said that within 20 minutes of the site going live, it had successfully registered 16 000 applications.

"It's not as huge as we wanted, we are ready for a massive surge so we still have to persuade other people that they must still apply. We wanted a huge volume," Lesufi said.

He said parents may have decided not to rush to apply because the site had crashed on its first day in 2016.

"Maybe they wanted to be sure that it is not crashing before they can come. But we will assure them that it's not crashing, it is working; it is functional."

He said that in 2016 this time his team was nervous because of some glitches that were creating problems for parents wanting to apply.

One such glitch occurred on Tuesday morning while Makhura was assisting Pertunia Nkwanyana apply for her son, who was currently in Grade R.

She had wanted her son to attend a primary school three streets away from their home, however, the school did not reflect on the system.

"I had to pick another one, so the Premier said I should apply for my second choice, but after that we started another application and applied to my first choice. The second choice is further; my son would have to cross a river on his way there."

Simple process

She said if her son was to be admitted at her second choice, he would have to walk for an hour and 10 minutes to get to school.

"It means I'll have to get him transport if he ends up going there because the majority of the kids in our area go to the one I wanted in the first place," Nkwanyana said.

Although there had been a glitch, she said the overall process was quick, simple and easier than she thought it would be.

"Naturally there will be glitches here and there. We are asking people to be patient when they find some glitches," Lesufi said.

Makhura said he had raised the issue with department officials and Lesufi vowed to visit schools in the province to ensure that they were all on the system.

"We hope and pray that with all the technical backup we have that there will be very little glitches," Makhura said.

Makhura said it was important for parents to understand that for schools to ensure a smooth academic year, all the planning needed to happen well in advance.

Part of doing things on time meant parents could have peace of mind, knowing that they had their first choice of schools, Makhura added.

"The choice of school is a very important issue by parents is the beginning of testing the system. If a parent says 'I live here and the closest school to me is here.'

"If they come too late, by that time the school is already full, so doing it early gives parents the opportunity to choose schools that they would prefer.

"We don't want the authorities to impose the choice on parents, but if everything is done early we'll be able to meet the needs of the parents," Makhura said.

Read more on:    panyaza lesufi  |  david makhura  |  johannesburg  |  education

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