Johannesburg - The School Governing Body (SGB) system in SA’s schools, as it stands, is intensifying the disparities between well-resourced and poor schools.
This is according to a study by the University of the Western Cape’s Institute for Social Development that looked at the effectiveness of SGBs in underperforming schools - these are schools with a matric pass rate that’s less than 60 percent.
The study, which was conducted among a sample of 85 schools in the Western Cape, was commissioned by the Presidency to garner information to be used in educational policy-making.
The research report, titled School Governing Bodies at Underperforming Schools: How effective are they really?, is one of several that focused on a variety of education issues.
The report found that “the relative contribution of the SGB to the governance of a particular school depends, to a large extent, on the demographics and socio-economic context the school finds itself in”.
“Schools in the more affluent areas have a greater pool of resources [financial and social] parents can draw from.”
On the other hand, the report said parents in impoverished areas “were not interested to serve on the SGB simply because they were too busy struggling to survive economically and socially. They did not have enough energy to serve on SGBs without remuneration.”
“The situation clearly depicts an anomalous situation [of] schools that are less dependent on contributions and assistance from SGBs typically having well-functioning governing bodies, while schools that are in dire need of institutional and financial support are often faced with highly ineffectual SGBs.”
Looking at the formation of SGBs in SA schools in the mid-1990s, which sought to dismantle the authoritative school governance system of the apartheid regime and introduce a participatory and inclusive style of school governance, the report found that the political climate before 1994 had played a huge role in the current state SGBs are in.
The researchers noted that: “During interviews with SGB members it was stressed that within the context of the regional political climate… prior to the 1994 elections, parents were often unwilling to become involved in the schools their children attended, arguing that it was an act of legitimising an apartheid-inspired educational system.”
This meant that the vast majority of parents left school-related issues to the government and the schools. Subsequently, when SGBs were introduced, “very little, if any, experience was accumulated by parents in governing and managing some of the affairs of school”.
This remains a factor even today and it contributes to weakened SGBs.
In rural areas this situation is worsened by the fact that children from those areas, who mostly come from farmworker families, attend schools that are often very far from the farms where the families stay.
“This makes it almost impossible for parents, who usually work long hours and have no easy access to transport, to attend SGB meetings or any other school events,” the report said.
It’s not only the parents who miss out on schooling activities.
SGB members from these schools said because of the long distances children had to travel to get to and from school, the schools had high levels of absenteeism among pupils.
In addition to this, it’s close to impossible for children from these schools to participate in extra-mural activities like sports and even extra classes.
Principals from these schools said it was specifically senior pupils who were affected by this because they couldn’t participate in additional academic programmes offered in the evenings.
To deal with the problems hindering SGBs from being effective, regardless of the resources available to them, the report recommended that the policy that SGBs operate under be revisited and the training programmes for SGB members, which currently don’t bear the desired results, be remodelled.
“SGBs in their current form appear to be fundamentally flawed and not working in the context of underperforming schools.
“Both principals and educators indicated that SGBs contributed only marginally to the functioning of these schools because parents typically lack organisational, managerial and technical capacity, which prevents them from supporting school management and their [teachers] in critical areas like drafting the annual school budget, fund-raising and effective implementation of disciplinary procedures.
“A possible route to strengthen the capacity of the SGBs is through the targeted nominations of highly skilled individuals from civil society, private sector companies and academia,” said the report.