Cape Town - More than 96 400 parents had registered their children for the 2023 academic year by April 1, compared to the same period last year in which only 61 526 children were registered.
By Tuesday, 101 292 applications were received.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said: “We are very pleased with the increase, however, we are very aware that there are still thousands of parents that have not yet applied. We appeal for them to do so by April 15.
“The WCED had initiated a 2023 admissions campaign which targeted various platforms and communities.
“Posters and pamphlets are sent to Grade R sites and to schools hosting Grade 7 pupils for distribution to parents/caregivers explaining the enrolment process, dates and frequently asked questions.
“The campaign also includes radio adverts, mall activations, loud-hailer campaigns in hot spot areas, adverts inside taxis and many other social media campaigns. There is extensive coverage on radio and print publications, including digital,” she said.
The online school admission system process was introduced for the first time in 2017, for 2018 enrolment, at 300 schools. This was then amplified to 500 schools in 2018 for the following year enrolment and then in all schools from 2019.
“The best advice is for a parent to apply on time (before April 15, 2022), apply at more than three schools, if not more, and also choose schools that are within your area of residence,” she added.
Founder and co-ordinator of Parents for Equal Education SA, Vanessa le Roux, said she didn’t know the exact figures for online applications but many parents have struggled in the first week with the online system.
“We also have parents, especially in the rural areas, that don’t have access to these online facilities. This is a way of excluding the poor section of society. We would like to appeal to the WCED to please allow an alternative where parents can go to the schools and fill out these applications. At this point there are still pupils that have not been placed for the academic year of 2022.
“The pop-up stands that should assist parents with online applications are being erected in malls, and these officials can’t begin to think that our communities are suffering to the point where they don’t even have taxi fare to go to these malls.
“The WCED is moving further away from the community, and seeking the easy way out. The department should be able to say we took this important service to the community,” she said.
Senior research associate at the University of Johannesburg, Mary Metcalfe, said the online system of application has many benefits for parents and for schools.
“In particular, schools should be in a better position to start teaching on the first day of school if they are not immersed in managing enrolment.
“Parents do not have to move from school to school looking for a ‘place’ for their child. Where the challenges we see in the media are technical glitches in this process, they must be ironed out urgently as children cannot have a delayed start to the school year because of system process issues,” she said.
Chief executive of the South African Teachers’ Union (SAOU), Chris Klopper, said the online methodology to do registrations and/or the submission of comment on any matter has become the default model.
“It only makes sense that the education sector must also follow this trend. The sharp increase in the use of social media has accelerated this trend. Furthermore, it saves time, effort and manpower by following the online methodology.
“The caveat is that it must not be a centralised register where parents register. The experience in Gauteng has proven that a centralised system is extremely problematic. If each school can control the registrations for that particular school, it will simplify the process. It is quite easy for the department to gain access to each school’s state of registrations and thereby form a picture on a provincial basis,” he said.
Executive director of Naptosa, Basil Manuel, said they welcome the increase.
“More people are becoming aware of the fact that registrations are going to be online and people are becoming accustomed to the online way of doing things, particularly because our parents are the group who grew up with computers and online media.
“One can expect the ability to do this easier as (opposed) to the older (generation), who have never touched a computer in their lives before. What can be done is greater advocacy and thrust, from the rural areas to the deep township areas,” he said.