Johannesburg - More than 25 000 parents have completed successful applications in the online admissions process for Grade 1 and Grade 8 learners for the 2018 academic year in Gauteng an hour after the site officially went live on Tuesday.
Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said that by 09:10 the system had recorded a total of 25 652 applications.
"We are quite excited that parents have listened to our call to register online," Lesufi told reporters in Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg.
Lesufi and Gauteng Premier David Makhura officially launched the application process in the area and assisted parents who had gathered at the Orange Farm Multipurpose Centre, which is one of at least 65 walk-in centres set up across the province to assist parents.
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.
They had made sure that this time around, the site could handle as many as 150 000 log-ins.
"We wanted 150 000 [users] within the first minutes, so our capacity is still broad," Lesufi said.
"We want everyone to go onto their computers [and] walk into our centres [for assistance]. Naturally, there will be glitches here and there.
"We are asking people to be patient when they find some glitches but generally to reach 16 000 within the first 20 minutes - it's a huge success."
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.
Despite continued resistance from some, Lesufi on Tuesday said this process was an important one as it would help the department refine its budget and planning for the upcoming year based on the numbers it captured.
"Out of this [process] you must know how many teachers you want to hire, how many schools you need to build, how many textbooks you need to buy and how much school furniture you need to buy, so numbers are very important."
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.
"By mid-year we want to know how many learners we have to accommodate at our schools in 2018.
"We hope and pray that with all the technical backup we have that there will be very little glitches."
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…
"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," Makhura said.
He said it would be regrettable for the department to impose on parents where their children would ultimately learn.
"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."
By 09:50 the number of successful applications was 32 989.