Plans to fix shortfalls in SGBs control
The triennial school governing body elections across the country are done and dusted and the new bodies will be in control for the second school term.
The main role of SGBs is to ensure a fair and democratic running of a school, while at the same time putting a number of important rules and policies in place which are in line with the constitution and SA Schools Act (Sasa).
However, lately SGBs have come under fire for discriminatory codes of conduct as well as admissions policies.
The responsibility of the SGB includes determining the admission policies and the codes for pupils as well as drafting the school budget, while also determining fees with parents.
They also recommend staff appointments and provide support for the principal, teachers and other staff.
Mila Kakaza of Equal Education (EE) said although SGBs had an important role to play in the education system, “we also acknowledge that some SGBs have misused their powers, for instance, excluding pupils based on race or class, drafting discriminatory codes of conduct or allowed bribes to improperly influence teacher appointments”.
“This type of misconduct tends to take place in contexts where district departments and circuit teams are weak.”
She said in cases, especially around school feeder zones, SGBs had used their power to create “arbitrary feeder zones”.
“The 1998 Admission Policy for Ordinary Public Schools allows for feeder zones to be determined by a provincial education department head.
“In provinces like the Western Cape, schools seem to be using the power afforded to them by Sasa to determine admissions policies, to create their own possibly arbitrary feeder zones.
“It does not make any sense for schools to be empowered to determine their own arbitrary feeder zones. Feeder zones are a particularly contentious way to manage admissions because it is often used to perpetuate apartheid spatial inequality by keeping pupils from low-income households out of well-resourced schools in wealthy areas.”
She said it was unacceptable that some schools’ codes of conduct “continue to discriminate against pupils from certain races or religions”.
She said this often happened in schools where “racial and religious compositions of pupils have changed since 1994”, but the racial composition of SGBs remained.
When Sasa was first passed, the rationale for decentralising some of these functions to SGBs was to recognise and accommodate national diversity.
“This remains an important consideration.
“The amendments to Sasa now being considered, try to address issues around school codes of conduct by stating explicitly that these must consider ‘the diverse cultural beliefs and religious observances of the pupils at the school’.
“This is an attempt by the Department of Basic Education to pro-actively prevent discriminatory codes of conduct rather than responding reactively to issues that come up. EE welcomes this move.”
Tim Gordon the national chief executive of the Governing Body Foundation said they are technically termed as a voluntary association.
“We were created to provide guidance, assistance and support.”
However, he said they had no power of enforcement, this can only be done through the provincial education department.
“They can remove a member or dissolve a whole governing body or take away certain rights.The whole concept of an SGB is the entrenchment of democracy,” said Gordon.
Jaco Deacon, the deputy chief executive of the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools (Fedsas) said often where SGBs fall short is they are not properly trained.
“From day one you must know your rights and responsibilities.”
He said Fedsas would be offering 176 training sessions across the county in the new term to SGB members as well as non-members with the training being rolled out in all 11 languages.
Millicent Merton, spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department said all decisions made by SGBs should be in line with national policies.
Debbie Schafer, the MEC for Education in the Western Cape said the department issued a circular with guidelines for the handover process from exiting SGB members to the new members.
“The principal must facilitate the handover process which must take place within 14 days of the first meeting of the new governing body.
“The principal must officially provide all relevant governance files, including the governing constitution, policies and procedures, to the new governing body.”