National 27.7.2016 05:29 am

‘Online schools system idea was stolen’

FILE PICTURE: Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

FILE PICTURE: Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

The Gauteng education department has been accused of hijacking a tech company’s idea for its new approach to registrations.

Though the Gauteng department of education has admitted that the Johannesburg entrepreneur who claims online admission was her brainchild approached the department with the concept in 2012, it maintains that the current system is its own original idea.

This after Melissa Laing, an IT entrepreneur who owns a company called Huntlia Technologies, told EWN that she pitched the idea to the department four years ago but was turned down. Laing said she was shocked to later see the system up and running, as her idea had originally been brushed aside as “stupid”.

When the system launched this year, Gauteng MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi said his department opted for the system because it was convenient, easy to access and enabled planning and fair distribution of learners across the Gauteng education system. At the time, Lesufi said applying online would ensure allocation of resources, such as learning and teaching materials, furniture, human resources and infrastructure.

Though the system gave most parents doubts in the beginning, Lesufi reassured parents that online was the only way to make sure learners were given enough freedom to apply to the school of their choice.

Through the system, the department received more than 200 000 applications after the closing date, including relocating learners and those in between grades. But Laing demanded that until the department could prove that the system was its original idea, it should shut down the site or provide financial compensation.

The department’s acting spokesperson, Oupa Bodibe, confirmed that the department was aware of the accusation and would respond in due time.

“We have noted with concern the accusation levelled against the department by Huntlia Technology claiming the department is using their online system concept without crediting them. The department is still considering the matter and will respond accordingly in due course.

Bodibe said the department was not at liberty to divulge any further information regarding the summons “as the matter was sub judice”. The department will wait for a court ruling on the matter before taking further action.

The matter would be heard on Thursday.

– batlilep@citizen.co.za

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