Thursday marked the start of the election of School Governing Body (SGBs) members across the country. Scheduled to take place until the end of March in over 25 000 schools, the elections take place after every three years.
Basic education minister Angie Motshekga assured the nation that all preparations were made to ensure the elections proceed smoothly. Briefing the Parliament Portfolio Committee for Basic Education on Wednesday on her department’s readiness, Motshekga said SGB elections were at the centre of the department and the provinces’ key priorities in terms of budget, planning and the allocation of both physical and human resources.
Why parents should get involved
SGBs are seen as the key component in the life of a school as they provide parents with a platform to get involved in how their schools are governed. They perform critical functions such as deciding on policies around school fees and uniform, language and religion, admission and code of conduct as well as the constitution.
Motshekga called on all parents to participate in the elections saying apart from democratically electing new leadership, they were also important levers that communities used to take ownership of their schools.
Motshekga said: “The performance of schools tends to improve when parents are actively involved and take an interest in the affairs of the schools.” She said it was important for parents to “turn up in their numbers” so the SGB could represent the school’s makeup adequately.
In February, Western Cape education MEC, Debbie Schäffer urged parents in her province to vote “to ensure that the school serves the best interests of their children”. In Gauteng, MEC Panyaza Lesufi also appealed to parents to take part and added that SGBs encouraged parents and other school stakeholders to volunteer their services to schools.
Some thorny issues with SGBs
In November 2017, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) provoked the ire of the SGBs when it published ‘Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill’ for public comment. SGBs across the board unanimously rejected the bill’s proposals saying they amounted to stripping them of their decision making powers in relation to learner admission, language and more crucially the appointment of staff.
But some parents complained about the lack of training to SGB members saying this limited their full participation in the affairs of the structure. They said some principals took advantage of their weakness and not only abused their powers but also mismanaged school finances.
SGB election procedure
Inside Education spoke to Cathy Callaghan, an executive member of Governors’ Alliance, one of the umbrella bodies of the SGBs. She shared her views in terms of the procedures and processes that should unfold for credible SGB elections to take place. She also encouraged parents to take part in the elections saying “functional SGBs means functional schools”.
Callaghan said SGB elections take place under the South African Schools Act No. 1996 (SASA) and they were elected in by the various stakeholders at the school with the intention to make schools the centre of the community. She said the office bearers of the elected SGB comprise chairperson, deputy-person, treasurer and secretary, adding that elected members are not paid for serving in the body.
Callaghan said, legally a public school had the capacity to perform its functions in terms of the SASA”, adding that SGBs also exercised a financial oversight on school funds that schools charge learners. She said people who qualified to be elected onto the SGB were parents of learners enrolled at the school, educators employed at the school, non-educators employed at the school and learners in the eighth grade or higher at the school.
Parents must ensure they appear on the Voters Roll, advised Callaghan, adding that they must also have an identity document for the purposes of both nomination and election. A parent who is eligible to vote must also ensure that he or she is not employed at the school, an un-rehabilitated insolvent, of unsound mind and convicted of any offence involving dishonesty.
Once all the requirements have been met, the process of nomination begins, said Callaghan. She said one of the first steps is for the principal to send out a notice to all parents they will then complete a Nomination Form ensuring the name of the nominee and the seconder appear on it.
Nominations are then dropped in the box the Electoral Officer will call for further nominations and after an allocated time will examine all the forms to ensure they comply with stipulated regulations.