Fedusa's Dennis George Picture: Phill Magakoe
Fedusa's Dennis George Picture: Phill Magakoe

It's vital that our schools remain autonomous

By Letter Time of article published Nov 13, 2017

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The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) and its affiliates in the basic education sector, the South African Teachers Union (SAOU) and the Public Servants Association (PSA), have called on the government to stop school capture by removing deleterious amendments that have been proposed to the South African Schools Act (Sasa).

Fedusa says the proposed amendments will disempower communities by transferring school governance to state officials and are fertile ground for capturing school finances. Fedusa general secretary Dennis George says what is being proposed will take public education back to the pre-1994 era.

“What will result is a system of state schooling in which each school is an extension of the political dispensation of the day. 

"What this means is that schools will have no choice but to toe a specific political line and the noble notion of the school as a democratic institution will come to nothing. 

"These amendments will in no way improve the quality of education and are, without doubt, designed to 'capture' every school for the sole purpose of advantaging the state,” said Mr George.

“The excuse offered is that not all governing bodies can fulfil their duties which clearly begs the question: What then has the government been doing for the past 20 or more years? 

"It is also important to note that the proposed amendments run counter to the Education White Paper and the National Development Plan. Both policy documents require school communities to enjoy the highest degree of autonomy. 

"This explicit ‘school capture’ is a step backwards: one that, over the long term, will push an already ailing system closer to the edge. 

"It places schools in the hands of redeployed cadres who have absolutely no sense of the education needs of either schools or their communities."

Mr George noted that of particular concern was the plan to take the appointment of senior posts in schools out of the hands of the school governing bodies and place it instead in the hands of officials.

“To date, it was a generally accepted principle that parents and schools were in the best position to objectively decide which principal, deputy principal and head of department most satisfactorily fulfilled the school’s curriculum and cultural requirements, while also fitting in with the nature and ethos of the school,” he said.

“Other aspects that suggest school capture are the fact that schools can be forced to make use of centralised procurement systems and that education authorities can simply use school facilities willy-nilly without the school being able to claim remuneration for maintenance or possible breakages. 

"Furthermore, the prescript that the purchase of just about any article at all is subject to departmental approval is clear proof that the department wants to exercise total control over schools’ purse strings,” said Mr George.

The SAOU and the PSA are already collaborating with other education unions such as the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) and the National Teachers Union (Natu), and other stakeholders in basic education to fight this draconian attempt to capture schools. 

“Fedusa calls on every responsible citizen to reject this action as it can only be a move that totally contradicts and makes a mockery of efforts aimed at quality and democratic education in South Africa,” concluded Mr George. 

​Frank Nxumalo

Fedusa Media and Research Officer

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