School Bill Battle
The bill, which is out for public comment, seeks to strip school governing bodies (SGBs) of all decision-making powers, such as admission of pupils, language of tuition and appointment of senior teaching staff.
Those who are against the bill have described it as “school capture”, while its proponents have argued that SGBs are ill-equipped to make critical decisions on the running of schools.
With the deadline for public comment looming, education stakeholders have drawn up a petition that has received more than 25000 signatures.
They are calling for Parliament to ensure that the bill does not see the light of day.
Whichever way you look at it, the issues being put on the table through this bill are very complex, and should be approached with caution.
The Basic Education Department has paid millions of rand in legal fees as schools sought to challenge the high-level appointments in court.
For the department, the passing of this bill would put paid to that scenario because the education head of department would have the final say.
However, the SGBs have also put forward a compelling argument that the governing body knows the school best. They argue that they know school needs better than someone sitting in the department’s offices.
It is clear that the warring factions need to find some common ground.
To be frank, it is not township or rural schools that the department is targeting - the department has its sights on former model C schools that operate with a certain degree of autonomy.
Over the years, these schools have built impressive financial reserves through school fees and the lion’s share of the staff is paid by the governing body.
It is these schools that are putting up a fight against the bill.
The department has often accused former model C schools of using fees and language policy to determine the number of black pupils they admit.
All these issues are complex and must be dealt with delicately to avoid litigation and protests.
And pushing a bill through Parliament is, unfortunately, not the way to go about it.
* The views here represent that of the Cape Argus.