SGBs fight over their ‘right’ to hire principals
By Khuthala Nandipha
The Department of Education is seeking to strip School Governing Bodies (SGBs) of their authority to appoint school principals, their deputies and heads of departments to address concerns about SGBs fixing posts and causing chaos.
The department seeks to make amendments to the South African Schools Act through the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill. SGBs are made up of parents of learners, learners, educators at the school and community members where the school is located.
According to Minister Angie Motshekga, this will address corruption in appointments where members headhunt and earmark their own preferred candidates for personal reasons. In a move that started in 2017, the public was given the opportunity to comment on the Bill. Concerned stakeholders, teachers’ unions and student governing bodies have expressed their dissatisfaction with this move.
Chris Mdingi, provincial secretary for the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) said the powers of SGBs can only be taken when the minister follows a due process of consultation and there is consensus on the matter.
“If proper consultation has ensued and agreed on the way forward the Minister can go ahead and implement those resolutions. Besides, as a trade union, we would appreciate if the powers that be address the real issue, not the side issues,” he said.
The real issue, according to Mdingi is the capacitation of SGBs on the very matter; going for big fishes than small fishes in relation to corruption and respect of South African Schools Act by all role players, not by some.
“As SADTU, we are of the view that the process should not be rushed for the sake of accountability and reporting, that there are changes effected or there is work being done at the expense of gains we realised since the dawn of democracy in the country for it would mean it is democracy in reverse,” said the provincial secretary.
The Constitutional Court has referred to SGBs as an example of ‘grassroots democracy’ because they allow the people who are directly affected by the right to education to be involved in achieving this right. This is to redress the legacy of apartheid; to fix and change past inequalities. The Schools Act ensures that SGBs are involved in making decisions for schools. They must do so in a democratic manner, by consulting with everyone whose needs are affected.
The primary functions of a school governing body of a public school, according to the South African Schools Act is to promote the best interests of the school and to recommend to the Head of Department the appointment of educators at the school, subject to the Employment of Educators Act of 1998 and the Labour Relations Act of 1995.
Chapter 3 of the Constitution stipulates that there are a number of different groups of people responsible for governing a school at various levels; national, provincial, district and circuit levels, while school governing bodies (SGBs) govern at a school level. The different jobs that these role players have are set out in the law, such as the Schools Act and its regulations.
The National Association of Schools Governing Bodies (NASGB) said the department is denying communities the right to have a say in the appointments, which is similar to the practices of the era of apartheid where leaders were imposed on the community.
In a statement, the NASGB’s general secretary, Matakanye Matakanya said they will not allow for this to happen again. However, the department is adamant that SGB will still have powers to govern in many other areas.
Another critical amendment is the proposition that stricter penalties must be imposed on parents who do not send their children to school. Currently, parents can be imprisoned for six months, but the department wants it to be increased to six years.