New Western Cape portal stymies worried parents looking to place kids in school for 2024
After last year’s applications fiasco caused delays, the WCED's platform is meant to simplify the process. But some parents are still struggling.
With the 14 April deadline for next year’s school admissions in the Western Cape fast approaching, parents say they are battling to file their applications online.
On 13 March 2023, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) officially opened applications for admission to government schools for 2024. As parents rushed to apply, many said they could not go further than the login page.
The WCED this year moved the application process from the national government’s State Information and Technology Agency (SITA) platform to a new WCED portal, after the SITA system crashed in 2022 and the deadline had to be extended.
Here is the link to apply for 2024:
Schools can only start considering applications after the window for 2024 applications closes at 11.59pm on 14 April 2023.
They then have about six weeks to process applications and decide which they will accept. They will start making offers to parents from 29 May 2023.
Frustrated parents who spoke to Daily Maverick said they were struggling to access the WCED website, even though they were using the link provided after successfully registering weeks ago.
Others said the site was not user-friendly and those using cellphones were met with blank screens when accessing the site.
The WCED said the cellphone glitch was because of a sizing issue when viewing the site vertically on the phone.
Shameemha Salie, a PR city councillor with Al Jama-ah and a mother of five children, said she too struggled with logging in. As a former School Governing Body member, she said she tried to help parents with applications while also doing hers.
“I had to get my husband to register and do the application because I tried unsuccessfully to reset the password,” she said.
“Other parents experienced the same. The system became very busy and kept kicking parents out.”
She said that she had also checked in with some of the schools a couple of days after the applications were eventually submitted online and discovered that “schools that were supposed to reflect around 600 applications only had 41 applications on 23 March”.
She advised parents to double-check with schools to determine if their children’s names were reflected at the schools they had applied to.
“My fear is that names of applicants are being dropped from the system because we are dealing with a system that is not perfect.”
A parent not in South Africa said he had not been able to submit applications for his child as it appeared the system would not allow anyone from outside the country to register.
Schools were also unable to access the WCED portal.
The department has arranged 114 pop-up admission sites at shopping malls, schools and other facilities, in all eight education districts to help parents and caregivers who do not have internet access or who need help applying online
Muhammad Khalid Sayed, an ANC member in the Western Cape provincial legislature, said he had been made aware of technical glitches by parents seeking intervention as they were worried about the delays.
“Similar glitches were also experienced last year, which forced the department to extend the application deadline,” he said.
“The frailties of the system are getting exposed; clearly it cannot cope with the large volume of applications. This is why we believe a dual system of both online and manual systems should be used.”
WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said families outside South Africa could apply for admission to schools. Those experiencing technical problems could log a query using the “contact us” option at the top of the admissions page, she said.
“This is a new system which has been created so as to avoid issues that we have seen in the past which caused the previous national government SITA system to crash.
“The move away from this system has proven to be the right one, given that we have not experienced any downtime of the system, even with thousands of users on the system at the same time,” she said.
“While SITA services experienced outages last week, our admissions system has remained up and running since the applications window opened, and the stability of our site has meant that over 67 512 parents have been able to complete their applications.”
She noted that some parents using cellphones believed that the system was down because the webpage showed a blank screen. “However, this is not the case, if they turn their phone horizontally, the full contents appear,” she said
“There have been some glitches in the system which are being addressed. The majority of issues are related to password resets, which require contact with an official to reset. This originally caused a backlog in queries, which has since been addressed. The volume of people accessing the site has stabilised, after the initial rush when the site opened.”
Hammond added that because of the integration of the new and the old systems, some of the applications would not yet reflect on the schools’ side.
“This has been communicated to schools so that they are aware, and that they will have access to all applications they have received once this is completed.” DM
HELP – Applicants who are struggling with the online process may contact a helpline on 0860 142 142