Diepsloot resident, Zipho Mcubuse, has a six-year old cousin should be entering Grade 1 in 2017 but she’s worried this may not happen.

Mcubuse’s cousin is one of hundreds of thousands of children around Gauteng who were the first pupils who had to apply for places in Grade 1 or 8 using a new online system introduced by the provincial Department of Education this year.

She is one of a number of women who visit the Father Louis Blondel Youth Centre in the northern Johannesburg township where she lives for work or community education programmes who spoke to htxt.africa and said that they were unable to apply on the site. They now don’t know what will happen going forward.

The department opened applications for parents whose children are going to Grade 1 to 8 next year in April. The new system replaces the old manual, paper-based one and was compulsory for all.

There were worries that those without internet access or those who weren’t computer literate would battle to use the system. To remedy this, the department set up help-desks around the province to help out parents, particularly those in need.

It also mandated schools and public libraries to allow parents to come in and use their internet facilities, and offer help to anyone with such issues.

The deadline applications closed on 1st June, with the department insisting it would not be extending it. This left those who applied after the deadline added to the late registrations list.

It seems though, that these efforts still weren’t enough to ensure every single child would get a place for the next academic year.

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Name Zipho Mcubuse

Area of residence Diepsloot Extension 13

Child applying Six-year-old cousin, Sibahle Sotiya

Grade applying for in 2017 One

According to Mcubuse, Gauteng Education officials came to the Father Blondell Centre, where she works, to let them know about the new process and to explain it to those at the centre. However, she feels that the message wasn’t clear enough.

“Some parents still don’t understand the process. I think those with computer experience grasped the message but for others, it’s very hard,” she says.

Mcubuse says a few parents tried to use Admissions but were hampered by the complicated process, which was compounded by connection issues.

She says it would’ve been ideal had education officials placed or trained at least one person at the centre to help community members with applications.

“I think it be will better for parents who couldn’t apply to look for a school for their kids on their own, the old way, and do it quickly because in most cases, township schools fill up pretty quickly and we can’t afford Model C schools.”

Last month, Gauteng MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi said some children who didn’t apply may only get a school place as late as April next year.

Mcubuse says she doesn’t approve of this because kids can’t get left behind, especially when they’re going to a new grade and/or at a new school.

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Name Helen Sidumu

Area of residence Diepsloot Extension Seven

Child Applying Thabiso Sidumu

Grade applying for in 2017 One

Helen Sidumu’s son, Thabiso, currently attends Grade R in Limpopo and lives with her mother. He is supposed to begin attending Grade One next year but she hasn’t been able to register him yet.

She also knows her way around a computer but didn’t fully understand the education officials’ explanation about the application process.

“I think we are going to struggle as parents because the first problem is internet access which many people don’t have. Also, many , like me didn’t understand what the department explained when they were here,” she says.

Sidumu says older residents in particular have been left out because the majority of them don’t know how to use a computer.

“You know how it is when a new system is introduced –  it takes time to learn it.”

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Name Moipone Sedi

Area of residence Diepsloot Extension Ten

Children Applying Rethabile and Katlego Sedi

Grade applying for in 2017 One

Moipone Sedi’s situation is a bit different to others who have kids going to grade one or eight next year.

She wanted her five-year-old twins to apply for grade one next year and went to Noordgedig Primary School, where she wanted to enrol them for assistance with registering online.

However, according to rules of the department, children born before July 2011 cannot enrol for grade one next and so, her kids must repeat Grade R.

She says when it’s time to register her kids for 2018, the school should just pull her the details she has submitted and use them to help her apply online.

She is however a bit worried about whether or not this will happen and will be forced to go back and start the process again.

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Name Susan Mboniso

Area of residence Diepsloot Extension Eleven

Children Applying Kefilwe Maduna and Naledi Mboniso

Grade applying for in 2017 Nine

While Gogo Susan’s two grandchildren, Kefilwe Maduna and Naledi Mboniso, are already in grade eight at Iitirele Zenzele Comprehensive School and Diepsloot Combined School respectively, her case reveals the break in communication between government and many residents.

She was under the impression that she also had to use the system to apply for her grandkids for 2017 and was worried about how she would do this because she only knows a few computer basics and had not been shown how to use the Admissions site.

Fortunately, she doesn’t have to go that route for now, but instead has to stick to the old way of registering them for the new academic year.

This does raise the question of how many other parents or guardians are like Gogo Susan with little understanding of the information given to her.

htxt.africa was into contact with a media liason from the Gauteng Department of Education, who reiterated that the department did everything possible to ensure that the message was clearly communicated to parents all over Joburg.

He further added that parents are welcome to bring any issues forward to the department either by calling its help line or visiting its offices and shouldn’t be complacent in taking up the matter with government seriously.

Over 230 000 pupils registered on education database

Today the department revealed that it had 230 000 learners recorded on its database through the Admissions site.

Over 6 000 children have been successfully placed in schools so far and the current enrollment is around 408 000.