| 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
For the first time in the history of school-based admissions, the registration, application and placement process is conducted online for all Grade 1 and Grade 8 applications in the Gauteng Province.
The system consists of a Front–end that allows access to applicants to complete the entire admissions process from registration of new information and / or verification of existing learner and parent information to the selection of schools of choice and confirmation of offers of acceptance from schools. Identity numbers are verified as the Department has access to the data sets on the Department of Home Affair’s database.
The entire process of registration, application and placement can be done by a parent from the comfort of the home. Parents will only visit schools to submit the required documents to schools within fourteen working days between 7:00 and 16:00.
The Department has created a number of Help Desks to assist parents who do not have access to the internet with their applications at all the schools (2079 Primary and Secondary schools) in the Province, Libraries and community centres in townships and suburbs.
The system eliminates discrimination as it operates on a first come first serve basis, providing a Waiting List number and creating a Waiting List without prejudice. Thus all learners who meet the Admissions Requirements in terms of the Regulations on Admission to Public Schools, 2012 as amended are allowed access to a school closest to their home or their parents’ work address.
The District and Head Office have access to the Back-end of the system thus allowing constant monitoring to prevent manipulation. In addition, monitoring from the back-end of the system is ensuring up to the minute updates on applications allowing the department to track the progress of applications and public response. When slow progress is observed the Department is able to intervene through localised and national advocacy to raise awareness about the specific stages of the admissions process.
| 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The Admissions Online Application is implemented by the Gauteng Department of Education through the Public Ordinary Schools Directorate located within the School Management Chief Directorate. The sub-directorate managing admissions has five officials at provincial level and 1 official per district ( 15 districts) and 3 officials from the Information Systems and Information Technology Directorate where IT Developers are located.
A total of 331 625 Grade 1 and 8 learners in 2081 Public Ordinary Schools in the Gauteng Province as well as learners in Grade 1 and 8 who have relocated from other Provinces and/or countries have benefitted from being placed at schools through the use of the admissions Online Application.
The Online Admissions Application System introduced three different operating systems to broaden access for public usage: Mobile, Web-Based and Administration Applications.
The Online Admissions Application has resulted in job creation, allowing a number of first time employees with an opportunity to gain experience in the job market and earn a salary to maintain families.
• Through GCRA, a total of 117 interns have been contracted for a minimum period of two years at a variety of institutions across the including schools, fifteen district offices and the provincial Head Office
• The Department allowed two young black men with remarkable IT acumen, recruited as interns from a private institution, the opportunity to create the Online Admissions Application System. These two young black interns became the main Developers of the Online Admissions Application System, resulting in their permanent appointment as Deputy Directors: IT at the Gauteng Department of Education where they are playing a major role in the management and constant improvement of the Admissions Online Application System.
• The contracting of interns has provided an opportunity to gain work experience to 117 young people who have never had permanent positions of employment. Approximately 10% of these interns were subsequently appointed in permanent positions in the Department
• Specific experience is gained by interns in computer operation, telephone etiquette, implementation of Batho Pele principles when engaging the public
• In addition, the contracting of young men and women is feeding multiple families through its internship initiative
| 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The project to build an Admissions Online Application was conceptualised in 2009 and actualised as a pilot project in 2014. In 2015, a dual admissions approach, including paper-based and e-admissions was adopted.
The first version of the Project Charter (Release 1) was developed according to the User Requirements defined by the Public Ordinary Schools Directorate, based on the Regulations on Admission to Public Schools, 2012 as amended and documented in the Project Charter (Release 1) (available on MyGDE). The Application, hosted at SITA was launched on 15 April 2015 and went live on 21 April, 2015. A dual application process was followed, allowing for admissions to be processed both manually and online. A centralised database of all admissions was constructed, enabling the admissions processes to be streamlined and allowing for schools that are in demand to be identified. Thousands of parents were able to use the Application and registered their children online in 2015 for admission in January, 2016.
The success of the project prompted the Department to adopt the Admissions Online Application as a singular tool to process applications for the 2017 Academic Year. Therefore, Release 2, with a separate Project Charter (available on MyGDE) was constructed and implemented. After the 2016 Admissions Process for the 2017 learner intake, Project Charter (Release 3) which includes further enhancements to the original system was planned for the 2018 learner intake.
Key to the success of the implantation process was a Training Programme aimed at adequately equipping district officials, school principals and admissions administrators to manage the Admissions Online application Process. These included live demonstrations of the functions of the Admissions Online Application. Credentials were created for all officials including principals and school staff involved in Admissions. In addition to Technical Training regarding the Admissions Online Application, the legislative prescripts including Regulations on Admission to Public Schools, 2012 as amended were mediated to ensure compliance. The training sessions were conducted by Head Office Officials responsible for Admissions, assisted by IT Developers.
The Administration Application is used for administration at Schools, Districts and Head Office. Districts manage school operations and reporting while Head Office manages oversight of the implementation process. Head Office played an oversight role through monthly meetings with Provincial Admissions Coordinators and administrative staff based at the fifteen Districts in the Province. Guidance with regards to progress and was provided, while Challenges were mitigated at Admissions Coordinators Meetings. During the admissions Application period interns and district admissions staff were deployed at help desks while Districts occupied 57 Decentralised admissions venues to assist with the placement of late applications in January 2017.
After the MEC pronounced the Admissions Period for 2017 on, the Communications Directorate enhanced advocacy to reach parents/applicants nationally, provincially and locally. The advocacy strategy was accelerated to indicate the beginning of each period and enhanced during the different Admissions periods.
At the end of the 2016 Admissions Placement period, a stakeholder review sessions were conducted to for the purpose of improving the Admissions Online Application. The feedback from parents, SGB Associations, schools and districts were analysed. Based upon the lessons learned, the existing features were amended while a number of new features were added to the Admissions Online Application. While improvements were made throughout the implementation period, the most significant improvements will be effective in 2018.
The cost of implementing Admissions Online Application (2017/18) is outlined in Table 1 below:
TABLE 1: COST FOR IMPLANTING ADMISSIONS ONLINE APPLICATION 2017/18
• Admin support (16)
• Professional Official (20) R 8 448 180 monthly average salary for the 20 officials
Interns 75 x R2500 = R187 500
Developers R 900 000 monthly average salary
• 3G 75 x R8000 = R600 000
Data cost of 3Gs not confirmed
SITA Hostings R120, 000
ESRI License R800 000
Costs of SMS R0,30 x 400 000 = R360, 000
Communication Strategy R3,300 000
| 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
The Department provided two young black men with IT acumen, recruited as interns from a private institution, the opportunity to create the Online Admissions Application System. These two young black interns became the main Developers of the Admissions Online Application, resulting in their appointment as Deputy Directors: IT at the Gauteng Department of Education. They continue to play a major role in the management and constant improvement of the Admissions Online Application.
In addition to the two main IT Developers, the Department recruited seven interns as IT Developers and 117 interns through GCRA from 2015 to 2017. The 117 interns were allocated to the 15 Districts and Head Office to assist parents with Admissions applications and queries over.
The main drivers of the initiative were identified as Chief Directorates Corporate IT; Communications, School Management and Operations. The State Information Technology Agency (SITA) is acting as a host for the application, and a guarantor of Information Security. The identified business units established an Admissions ICT Steering Committee that holds weekly meetings attended by SITA, IT Developers and Head Office Admissions Personnel. In these meetings the approach, strategy and implementation were discussed, reviewed and developed.
The department obtained its GIS license from the Environmental Systems
Research Institute (ESRI). In 2017, representatives from e-Government
joined the Admissions Steering Committee meetings to monitor the success of the GDE and assess the replicability of the Admissions Online application in other government Departments.
School Principals and administrative staff assist with online applications and placement. Districts monitor schools for compliance and Head Office personnel play an oversight role. The main stakeholders are parents who apply for admission of their children to Grade 1 and 8.
Feedback from parents, SGB Associations, schools and districts are encouraged through review sessions and queries forwarded to the MEC’s Hotline, Help Desks and telephonically.
| 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
• Statistical reports: Through the Admissions Online Application, the Department has managed to draw statistical reports of admissions application and placement progress. The Department was able to accelerate the advocacy campaign to raise awareness when applications and placements were slow.
• Efficient and effective resource provisioning to facilitate effective teaching and learning in a conducive environment. Timeous access to admissions numbers at schools in high pressure areas enabled the Department to intervene with requisite resource provisioning to ensure effective teaching and learning at all schools. Additional educators, LTSM, class rooms and scholar transport were provided to accommodate increased learner numbers.
• Employed Women and Girls. (SDG Goal 5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls)
Over a period of three years, 117 young people who have never had permanent positions of employment were recruited as interns through GCRA for a minimum two year period. The interns were deployed at a variety of institutions in the province including schools, fifteen district offices and the provincial Head Office. Some of these interns were subsequently appointed in permanent positions in the Department of Education or at GCRA. The contracts of 105 interns were extended for a third year. 77 of the 195 interns are female and 28 are male. The contracting of young men and women is feeding multiple families through its internship initiative.
In addition, the main drivers of the Admissions Online Application initiative are women at Top Management level identified in Chief Directorate Corporate IT; Chief Directorate Communications, Chief Directorate School Management and Chief Directorate Operations.
• 331 625 Online applications. The online nature of the admissions applications has contributed significantly to a reduction in the use of paper. This is a positive contribution to conserve the environment for sustainability. By the end of November 2016, the majority of learners, 86.3%, were placed, thus indicating that the majority of learners at schools were placed with minimum use of paper. A total of over 30 000 parents per second could all connect to the system
• Satisfied parents. The Department received a number of emails from satisfied parents expressing their gratitude to the Department for allowing them access to well-resourced schools in sought after areas.
| 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
The main obstacle with online application was the reluctance of parents to apply on time. This was coupled with resistance from parents to online applications. In January 2016, 19 537 late applications were received, 170 late applications came from other provinces while 41 came from other countries. A survey conducted by the GDE’s Communications Directorate revealed that most parents were simply used to applying in January and failed to heed the call to apply during the Admissions Period.
To assist with the placement of these late applications, Districts established 57 decentralised admissions centres where learners were directed to schools with available space.
Resistance to change was expressed in the actions of some principals who selectively rejected learners who met the Admissions Criteria to offer placement to learners selected on the basis of their academic or sporting records. The Department intervened to ensure that placement was effected in compliance with the legislative prescripts.
The department also faced litigation from lawyers representing schools that were reluctant to transform and/or individual parents who insisted on being placed at their school of choice. This resulted in thorough investigations of allegations and detailed reports. In one instance the case of principals in one area was scrapped of the role by the judge. Dissatisfied parents were allowed to follow an appeal process.
A number of parents misinterpreted the Registration Phase for the Application Phase. Further, parents refused to accept offers of placement made by schools, resulting in incomplete applications and unplaced learners. The Department held decentralized placement open days where parents were assisted. In addition, the APP has been amended to ensure that the Registration and Application process occur simultaneously.