‘Parents must make their voices heard now’

Henry

“This year is make or break for education in South Africa,” says the Federation for South African governing bodies. That is why parents are urged to take part in the national school governing body elections (SGB) at their respective schools this year.

“The controversial Bela legislation – the Basic Education Amendment Bill – is at an advanced stage. It contains numerous changes that will strip school communities of their say in how public schools are run. The general election later this year will have a major influence on the policy direction for education for at least the next five years,” says dr. Jaco Deacon, CEO of Fedsas.

The SBL elections take place nationwide in March this year. More than 250,000 SBL members are to be elected from the country’s 22,511 public schools. Fedsas launched its programs for the school governing body elections on Wednesday in Pretoria and Thursday in Cape Town.

“Public schools are a community asset and the school governing body controls and manages this asset on behalf of the community. It is extremely important that parents and the community understand that there are no state schools in South Africa,” says Deacon. “The South African Schools Act provides for public schools with governing bodies from the school’s immediate community who take responsibility for the control and management of the school.”

Solidarity also encouraged parents of learners at public schools to make their voices heard in this election.

“Although Solidarity has already promised strong action and has been persuaded to fight Bela in court, the support of parents and schools is of key importance in this campaign,” says the movement.

According to Johnell Prinsloo, education researcher from the Solidarity Research Institute, governing bodies must become actively involved in actions that can stop Bela in its tracks.

“The upcoming new term of governing bodies is extremely important for the parent community, especially as regards the proposed legislative amendment. Should the ANC use its power to steamroll Bela, the Department of Education will not hesitate to use its systems as soon as possible to change the schools’ language demographics.

“Before you know it, the school’s language preferences, and with it quite possibly also its culture, can change. Then it is too late to wonder how such a drastic change could have happened so quickly,” says Prinsloo.

Fedsas also appealed to communities to identify good candidates for school governing bodies. “People with a love for our children, our schools and our country must stand as candidates. And parents and guardians must participate in the elections in their droves,” says Deacon.

He points out that at least 15% of the school’s parents must vote for an election to be legal. “But the more parents vote, the stronger is the governing body’s mandate to say the school is an asset to the community and the state will not be allowed to take these powers away.

“As responsible parents, guardians and South Africans, it is everyone’s duty to participate in these elections. It’s easy to just complain about all the problems in education, but this year there are plenty of opportunities to add action to the word and really make a difference,” says Deacon.

For more information about the SBL election, as well as Fedsas’ training programs and other resources, visit Fedsas’ website.