Take this chance to influence running of your child’s school
More than 5 million people are voting for the school governing bodies (SGBs). So please help determine your child’s education by participating in elections of SGBs taking place from March 1 to 31.
You see, democracy is defined as the people having free choices. They get to choose the leaders who will oversee the operations of government and decide what services will be provided and how to equitably raise the funds for those services. In our system of government, unlike many other forms available, the people by their votes make the selections from among their fellow citizens as to who will be empowered to make these key decisions.
But SGB elections are a little different from the general election. There are no formal party lists. There is no slate of political party candidates. You can do it. As long as you are on the ballot, you have the same chance as other candidates to be listed first on the ballot. For those who get elected, what happens next? You’re sworn-in as an elected SGB member. Then you’ll find yourself participating in how your local school is run, including deciding on expenditure, worrying about fixing the school roof, and making the decision on whether to hire more teachers.
Those are things you find easy to complain about. Now, community members are going to complain to you. You have the power to propose policies that will address their concerns, and also learn that there are no easy solutions. Once you are a member of the SGB, understand that you will be one of a very few responsible for the education of all the children.
You’ll receive guidance from professional educators and administrators. But even with this help, only you and the other SGB members can make the final decision. So, don’t sit back!
You may ask what does the SGBs do. Generally speaking, the SGBs develop policies that guide the schools. They evaluate trends, identify the needs of the schools, help oversee the implementation of the schools’ mission and vision, help develop school budgets and employ staff.
Why should residents, parents and communities care about the School Governing Bodies elections?
Here are the qualities I believe voters should look for in an SGB candidate:
* Puts children first. An SGB candidate should believe that each and every child deserves an equal, quality education. He or she must have a true commitment to our country's future, its children and public education without a political agenda. He or she must also have a passion for children and a proven history of advocacy on their behalf.
* Provides leadership. A potential SGB official is an innovative problem solver who is able to communicate effectively, ask questions, listen and develop a vision for the future. He or she should also be a risk taker who seeks to build consensus and to make real change.
* Appreciates diversity. A qualified SGB candidate must recognise the diversity of cultures and demonstrate a willingness to address the social needs of all children, their families and our community.
* Shows a commitment to outreach. He or she must be willing to make the time commitment to do outreach work in our schools and neighbourhoods.
* Understands budget and finances. It is important for an SGB candidate to be committed to engage citizens in the school decision-making process. He or she must also possess good negotiating skills.
* Knows educational policy issues. A suitable candidate must be familiar with educational policy and the role of the school board in policy-making.
* Demonstrates integrity. He or she must be a person who is honest and trustworthy and holds positive principles and values.
* Is involved with the schools. A qualified SGB candidate must have a personal connection to the schools or to education.
* Supports parental involvement. He or she must be a strong advocate for involving parents.
* Expects accountability. Lastly, he or she must be able to hold public officials, teachers and administrators accountable to the community.
I have had the opportunity to work with SGBs. I have admired those who have the ability and desire to learn and listen, a talent to work through difficult problems and issues, a great interest in topics from children’s needs, a love for the environment, and a fluidity and flexibility in leadership style, the most helpful in determining the future of our children.
Most residents will not relocate to an area that does not boast great schools along with access to cultural venues, parks and other advantages. The communities - individuals such as parents, educators and concerned residents, as well as businesses, community organisations and faith-based institutions - need to work in partnership to ensure that every Gauteng child receives a quality education.
This requires dialogue among all the stakeholders, but especially between the SGBs and the larger community.
So, don’t sit back! Participate in the election of the SGBs.
* Lesufi is Gauteng MEC for Education.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.
The Sunday Independent