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School Governing Bodies

School governing bodies are important structures to  ensure the smooth running of schools. 

What is in this guide?

This guide provides government policy on school governing bodies. It has the following sections:

  1. The Challenges of transformation at schools
  2. School Governing Bodies (SGBs)

2.1 The composition of a School Governing Body
2.2 Guiding rules for SGBs
2.3 What are the functions of SGBs?
2.4 What are Section 20 and Section 21 schools?
2.5 Why are Learner Representative Councils (LRC's) important?

  1. How to promote discipline in schools
  2. How to promote security in schools

  1. Challenges of Transformation

Apartheid education policies deliberately under-resourced schools in African, Coloured and Indian communities.  As a result, for almost twenty years, schools became a battleground for the struggle against apartheid. By 1994, schools in many communities had little culture of teaching and learning Changing schools into places where children can learn in a peaceful, creative and well resourced situation is one of the biggest challenges of transformation.

Government believes it is important for parents, teachers, principals, learners and community members to work together to run schools. Because they are part of the school community, these people are in the best position to understand the historical, social, cultural, and financial problems a school faces and find solutions. 

  1. School Governing Bodies (SGB's)

The South African Schools Act gave parents, teachers and high school students the right to form school governing bodies (SGBs) and to make policies around issues such as language, religious instruction, school fees, and a code of conduct for learners.

 The South African Schools Act and our country’s Constitution guides all policies made by governing bodies.  This means governing bodies must make policies which:

2.1 The composition of a school governing body

The number of parents on the governing body must be 51% of the members who can vote.  Parents who work at the school can only be elected as staff members not as parents onto the governing body.

2.2 Guiding rules for SGB's

2.3 What are the functions of SGB'S?

2.4 What are Section 20 and Section 21 schools?

The provincial education department can decide to give additional management functions to school governing bodies that function well and have proved that they are 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 Education Department must send someone from Public Works to do the repairs

Section 21 Schools are allocated finances by the department and are responsible for ordering stationery, textbooks, paying water and lights accounts and undertaking their own maintenance.  They can also decide on what subjects the school can offer and what sports and other extramural activities the learners can take.

2.5 Why are Learner Representative Councils (LRC's) important?

To promote responsibility and involvement amongst learners in schools, government has decided that all High Schools must hold elections for Learner Representative Councils.  LRCs offer a useful opportunity for young people to learn about leadership and to understand the relationship between responsibility and authority.

Some schools have not been happy with LRC’s as they feel that it undermines the authority of principals and teachers.  It is important for development workers to discuss these issues with schools. In these discussions they can help teachers and principals to understand how LRCs help to build both young people and our democracy. 

  1. How to promote discipline in schools

One of the important roles of school governing bodies is to consult learners, parents and teachers about a Code of Conduct for the school. The code of conduct sets out school rules and says what punishments can be given if the rules are broken.  The code of conduct also sets out a grievance procedure so that parents and learners can take up a matter if they feel they have been badly treated by a teacher or another learner at the school.

The kinds of punishments that schools can use include a demerit system, detention, picking up rubbish on the playing field and so on.  Degrading punishments such as cleaning the toilets are not allowed. In 1997, the government banned corporal punishment such as hidings and canings in schools.  The reason for this is that the Constitution says that no one should be punished or treated in a cruel or degrading way.

For serious offences the school may suspend a learner for up to one week from school. This can only happen once there has been a fair hearing where the learner has had a chance to put his or her side of the story. 

If a school feels that the offence which the learner has committed is so serious that he or she should be expelled from the school, the learner can be suspended from the school while the provincial Head of Department decides whether or not to expel the learner. Only the provincial Head of Department can expel a learner from a school.  The principal cannot take such a decision.  If a learner is expelled, he or she can appeal to the MEC of Education to re-consider the case.

Regular meetings between teachers, parents and learners (particularly at High School level) can do a lot to improve discipline in schools.

  1. How to promote security in schools

School safety is another important issue that confronts Governing Bodies. Outsiders come onto school property and steal equipment, some of which has been bought by the Governing Body after fundraising amongst parents.  Assault, dangerous weapons, drug and alcohol abuse and sexual violence also pose a safety threat to schools, learners, teachers and principals.

To promote safety in schools, it is important that schools are fenced.  Provincial education departments have been trying to undertake this task, but because of financial shortages there are still many schools that are not fenced.  Development workers can assist schools to raise funds from business, community organisations and parents to fence schools

It is also possible to promote school safety by building good relationships between the school and the surrounding community. Community members who live next to the school will be more likely to chase away thieves if they feel a good relationship exists between themselves and teachers, principals and governing body members.  It is also important for a member of the governing body to develop a relationship with the nearest police station and to attend community policing forum meetings. In this way the police are more likely to assist if there are problems at the school.

Safety problems that can occur within schools include drug problems, fighting amongst learners, rape or sexual harassment of girl learners by fellow learners or teachers and bullying.  It is important that all these issues are covered in the School Code of Conduct so that everyone is clear that these things are not allowed at school and what the punishment is for transgressors.

Particularly in high schools, these problems can become very severe.  They are often a reflection of problems in the community and of problems in the home lives of learners.  It is important that the school make time to address these problems, to educate learners and to set up a counselling system to help victims and perpetrators.  In this instance it is useful if the school governing body or the principal has developed relationships with other community workers such as social workers, ministers of religion, NGOs, and CBOs.


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