Chapter 14 - Managing Schools
One of the most important aspects of the South African Schools Act (No 84 of 1996) is the law relating to school governing bodies. At the heart of this is the idea of a partnership between all people with an interest in education. Schools will be improved only through the joint efforts of parents, educators, learners, members of their local communities and various education departments.
South African schools have traditionally been classified as either independent (also known as “private”) or public schools. While both types of schools receive funding from the state, private schools generally demand much higher school fees from the parents of children that attend, with the result that they are much wealthier schools.
Public schools are designed to be more inclusive, because the fees they charge are much lower.
Nevertheless, in countries with high levels of poverty, such as South Africa, even state school fees are often much higher than parents can actually afford, because they have little to no income. As a result, the necessity of paying school fees is one of the greatest obstacles preventing children from attending school.
Public Schools can be further categorised as “Section 20 or Section 21” Schools. This refers to the section in the Schools Act which allows for the establishment of the Schools Governing Body.
The SA Schools Act Section 20 describes the functions of the school governing body. This includes:
There are three groups represented on a governing body:
The number of parents on a governing body must be one more than half of all of the members who may vote. Parents who are employed at a school can only be elected as staff members not as parents onto the governing body.
Each governing body must draw up a constitution that says how it will work. The constitution must fit into the minimum requirements given by the provincial Minister of Education. The constitution must say:
The Provincial Minister of Education will publish these details:
Each committee chairperson must be a member of the governing body, but other committee members need not be on the governing body.
Code of conduct for SGBs
The provincial Minister of Education must draw up a code of conduct for the members of the SGB after consultation with associations of governing bodies in each respective province. All members are required to comply with the code of conduct. The code of conduct must include provisions that allow for disciplinary action to be taken against a member of the governing body and that also protect the member who is being disciplined. The Head of Department may suspend or terminate the membership of a governing body member for breaking the code of conduct once proper disciplinary procedures in terms of the code have been followed. A member may appeal to the provincial MEC against a decision of the Head of Department regarding a suspension or termination of membership as a governing body member.
The governing body must:
A governing body must:
In addition, a governing body can be given any of these functions:
The provincial Head of Department must set up a programme to provide training for newly elected governing bodies to help them perform their functions.
The provincial education department can decide to give additional management functions to school governing bodies that function well and have proved themselves capable of improving their schools.
The South African Schools Act identifies two kinds of schools: Section 20 and Section 21 schools. Section 21 schools have greater powers and responsibilities than Section 20 schools.
Section 20 schools receive allocations of textbooks, and stationery from government. They also have their lights and water accounts paid directly by government. When something is broken at the school, the Provincial Education Department must send someone from Public Works to do the repairs.
Section 21 allows a school to apply in writing to the Head of Department for additional powers. This gives more independence and responsibility to the SGB, but SGBs are encouraged to make application only if they have the capacity required to manage these additional functions and increased responsibility..
Section 21 schools are allocated finances by the department for additional functions which include:
To promote responsibility and involvement amongst learners in schools, all high schools must hold elections for LRCs. LRCs offer a useful opportunity for young people to learn about leadership and to understand the relationship between responsibility and authority.