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Durban - Misuse of school funds by principals, nepotism in the appointment of staff and selling of test and exam papers are some of the concerns pupils and parents have about South African schools.
After receiving more than 300 reports of corruption in schools since January 2012, Corruption Watch commissioned a survey by research company, Pondering Panda, looking into corruption in schools.
School pupils, family members and students at FET colleges between the ages of 13 and 34 were surveyed on their perceptions of the levels and types of corruption in schools.
More than half the respondents questioned were school pupils, with 31 percent family members of school pupils and the remainder students.
Of the 3 284 respondents questioned, 53 percent believed corruption in schools was getting worse, with 72 percent believing the principal was most responsible for the misuse of school money or property. Almost half (48 percent) believed the principal was also primarily responsible for nepotism, while a quarter laid the blame on a member of a school governing body.
Results showed that only 42 percent of respondents submitted a complaint, and that KwaZulu-Natal had the second highest number of people not willing to report corruption (67 percent).
However, Professor Kobus Maree, education analyst with the faculty of education at the University of Pretoria, said more clear evidence on how many schools were involved, as well as what measures were being taken by the Department of Education, needed to be made available.
“Until we have that specific information, it would be impossible to comment on the issue and say if there is a trend.”
Commenting on concerns raised about leaked exam papers, particularly as the final matric examinations start at the end of the month, Maree said there were strict measures in place to prevent leaks.
“Looking at media reports, there were few incidences (of leaks) last year. I’m impressed by the department’s response and there is a trend in government to take the leaking of papers seriously.”
Chief executive of the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools, Paul Colditz, said although there was corruption in schools, it was not happening in every school.
“There are a lot of forms of corruption, but it’s not the general trend applicable to all schools. We have more than 24 000 schools in the country and because the survey picks up instances of corruption at schools, it doesn’t apply to all schools.”
He said school governing bodies were in place to ensure irregularities and corruption were dealt with successfully in schools.
“The purpose of the governing body is to give oversight and accountability and ensure the proper procedures are followed.”
He agreed that strict security procedures were followed with regard to matric exam papers.
“It’s a huge, nationwide system, so there is always a risk, but I’m satisfied with the department. I have no general fear that we will see leaked exam papers.”
National Teachers’ Union provincial deputy secretary, Allen Thompson, said there was a difference between corruption and a lack of information, and principals weren’t always to blame.
“We’ve noticed that with most principals who are found guilty, it’s a lack of information about due process.
“Most principals have not acted deliberately in contravening the school norms,” he said.