Online school mess in South Africa – what to look out for

 ·23 Jul 2023

Confusion around the quality and legitimacy of online schools has forced digital schools to clear the waters.

In a statement made in mid-June, online qualifications group Umalusi warned of “bogus” schools that were emerging and scamming parents with fake qualifications.

The group went on to state that it has not accredited any sort of online school in the country.

“To date, Umalusi has not accredited any online school to offer any of its qualifications. In the same vein, Umalusi is unaware that any provincial education department has registered any such institution,” it said.

Responding to this, online schools said that such comments have created major confusion as there is no legal framework for online schools to be recognised.

According to Brainline, an online school registered with the IEB, online schools are not recognised by the same regulations governing traditional schools – however, this has no effect on the validity of the qualifications provided.

As a result, Brainline said it has become a daunting task choosing an online school, especially with misleading information circulating the market.

Additionally, Banele Lukhele, the Executive Head of School at UCT Online High School, says the school offers a National Senior Certificate that is accredited by The South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute, which is ironically under license from Umalusi.

Branline and UCT Online School highlighted the following key factors to consider when selecting an online school and getting around ‘bogus’ schools:


Brainline said it is important to look for a school with years of experience and a well-known brand associated with online learning platforms and curriculums.


“Parents should prioritise online schools that are registered with an examining body, such as the Independent Examinations Board,” said Brainline.

“This accreditation guarantees that the education received complies with the requirements of the school’s examining body and the Department of Education. Valid reports and NSC qualifications from accredited schools are recognized by other institutions, locally and abroad,” it said.

Online Classes and Resources

Consider whether the online school offers live online classes or relies solely on pre-recorded sessions, Brainline said.

“Qualified teachers leading interactive online classes can significantly enhance the academic support provided. Additionally, look for schools that provide comprehensive resources, including learning materials, a library, and a platform for accessing additional information.”

Learning Environment

Brainline added that it is important to have a well-designed environment with user-friendly interfaces that are intuitive even without an advanced computer.

“The availability of interactive features that facilitate communication and collaboration with classmates and teachers can greatly enhance the personal feel of the online environment,” said Brainline.

Programme Diversity

It is also crucial to consider the flexibility and academic support provided by the programme. Moreover, assess the online school’s range of subjects to ensure it aligns with your child’s future aspirations and career choices, the company said.

Parental considerations

Even with it being an online school, parents should still have access to relevant and up-to-date reports about their child’s performance and participation in classes.

UCT’s Lukhele said that parents also have to facilitate a community for their child to be involved in, such as a chess or soccer club.

“Parents also need to be aware of the fact that they become the adult figure who encourages continuous learning because there is no adult walking around the room as would be the case in a physical space,” she said.

She added that the parents should ask what extracurricular activities are offered by the school.

Support for Special Needs

Brainline said there should be systems in place that enhance the identification of learning difficulties and provide professional accommodations such as extra time or promoters during exams.

Opportunities for connecting with teachers

Parents should also prioritise online schools that offer scheduled direct communication between teachers and students, ensuring effective engagement and support for all parties involved.

Does the child want to go

Lukhele said that the parent should ask their child how they feel about moving to an online school before making a decision.

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