Please fix the system of online application

2018-01-21 05:43

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As thousands of children were excited about going back to school on Wednesday, more than 30 000 did not know where they would start Grade 1 or high school.

This is the second year the Gauteng education department is making use of an online admission system for children starting primary and high school.

The fate of thousands of children is unknown and, for the next weeks, they will have nothing to do, while their peers get their much-needed education.

MEC Panyaza Lesufi said the issue could be resolved in February.

Even when the debacle is sorted out, these children will have missed out on their crucial first weeks of schooling.

The situation these 30 000 pupils (and their parents) find themselves in is a repeat of what happened at the beginning of the 2017 school year. Then, there was chaos as thousands of pupils had not been accepted to schools of their choice, while others were directed to schools far from their homes, causing frustration for parents who had to contend with parting with lots of money for transport.

Now, as last year, parents and their children have flocked to district offices and schools to demand admission.

One parent was reported as saying: “I had to take my child to a private school, which I can now no longer afford. Even though I applied on time last year, on May 2, my child has still not been placed.”

An unidentified school principal said: “I think the process of online enrolment is, in theory, a really good idea. The problem that I have with it is … generally speaking, I think (the process) widens the gap between people who have access to online applications and those who don’t.”

On the radio, I heard a story of granny talking about how she had failed her grandchild because she did not know how to use the internet or have it at home.

Introduced in 2016 for the intake of the grade 1s and 8s the following year, the online application system has frustrated many parents, schools and the department.

Acknowledging the delay in the admission of pupils, Lesufi said: “Our major challenge at the moment is that parents don’t want to understand that their schools of choice are full.

“Some of them have refused to accept offers given to them for placement, whereas others have asked the department to give them more time to decide. We are sure that by mid-February everyone will be placed.”

Lesufi and his officials should find space for the unplaced pupils in the coming weeks, but they must use the next months to ensure that the problem does not persist when schools reopen in 2019 – which could lead parents to believe that technology is a hindrance to the old way of doing things.

Follow me on Twitter @DumisaneLubisi

Read more on:    education

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