Western Cape parents aggravated as online school applications bomb

18 February 2020 - 14:11 By Sipokazi Fokazi
The Western Cape education department's new school application website for 2021 is experiencing technical problems.
The Western Cape education department's new school application website for 2021 is experiencing technical problems.
Image: 123RF/Denis Ismagilov

Parents who are trying to apply for grade 1 and grade 8 places for their children for next year have expressed frustration about technical glitches on the Western Cape education department's new admissions website.

For the first time Western Cape parents are compelled to apply online before they can physically submit applications at their preferred schools. When the system was introduced last year, parents could directly submit applications to schools before the online applications.

Some parents expressed irritation on Tuesday about the online application process.

A Kuils River parent said he had been trying to get on to the site since the application process opened on Monday.

“This is extremely frustrating. We have been asked to submit everything via the online portal but nothing seems to work,” he said. “I’m only able to go to the log-in stage and no further. It kicks you off automatically after that and says ‘service temporarily unavailable.”

Heidi van der Merwe of Melkbosstrand said that after trying the entire day on Monday to apply for her son, who is due to enter grade 8 next year, she set an alarm for 1am to complete the online application. She gave up at 2am.

“In the end we managed to get through, but it was a good 24 hours of struggling.”

The department confirmed the glitches and said load-shedding could be playing a part.

Spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said: “There have been some technical problems that are unfortunately beyond our control. Our sites are reliant on the infrastructure from the national government’s State Information Technology Agency based in Observatory. Issues like load-shedding do affect the agency’s support at provincial level.”

A parent from Bellville said her applications for her son, who is due to start grade 1 next year, would also not go through.

“I can’t even log in. I even thought the site no longer has my personal details so I tried to register, but it says I’m already registered. It’s very annoying,” she said.

Tamara Mafilika of Montana said that since Monday she had been trying to secure a grade 8 spot for her daughter.

“It’s quite disheartening that the online application website is unavailable. I’m angry and frustrated that we may end up getting a school that is not our choice,” she said.

“The department has been very quiet even though they are aware of the problem.”

Hammond said the problems were being resolved, and of the 8,400-plus people who registered on the site on Monday, 3,688 completed the process.

“Some parents have registered but did not complete the process as they did not have relevant documents [so it was and not] as a result of the technical problems, although this would have contributed,” she said.

“We completely understand that parents trying to apply and being thrown out of the system are frustrated. We feel your frustration and are working with all role players who  are involved.”

She said parents should not panic as they had the entire month to apply, and applications would be considered only after the closing date on March 17.

“Applications are not first come, first served. It is only day two. Parents have plenty of time to apply.

“Schools only consider the applications after March 17, so whether you apply today or on March 15 it will not make a difference,” she said.