24/01/2024 - Fedsas
This year is make or break for education in South Africa. The controversial BELAB legislation – the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill – is at an advanced stage. It contains several changes that could rob school communities of their say in how public schools are governed. The general elections later this year will have a big influence on the policy direction for education for at least the next five years. Thousands of schools still face huge challenges such as lack of funds, poor infrastructure, a lack of educators or incompetent educators, poor school governance, and many more.
“The silver lining around this quite dark cloud is that parents and school communities have several opportunities this year to bring about a change in direction and to take full ownership of schools,” says Dr Jaco Deacon, CEO of FEDSAS, the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools. FEDSAS launched its programmes for the school governing body elections in Pretoria today, with another launch in Cape Town tomorrow (25 January 2024).
The deadline for the public to comment on BELAB was extended to the end of January this year. “School communities should use the remaining opportunities to comment for all opinions to be on record. FEDSAS has already appointed an experienced legal team for a possible court case to test the constitutionality of BELAB should it become law.”
Then it is also time for school governing body elections, which take place every three years. After the general and local government elections, the SGB elections are the third largest in the country. The SGB elections take place country-wide in March this year. More than 250 000 SGB members must be elected at the 22 511 public schools in the country.
“Public schools are a community asset and the SGB governs this asset on behalf of the community. It is vitally important that parents and the community understand that there are no government or state schools in South Africa. The South African Schools’ Act makes provision for public schools with a governing body from the school’s immediate community taking responsibility for governing the school.”
FEDSAS is calling on communities to identify good candidates for SGBs. “People who love our children, our schools and our county should make themselves available as candidates. Parents and guardians should participate in huge numbers. For an election to be legal, at least 15% of the parents at the school must have voted. However, the higher the election participation, the stronger the SGB’s mandate is to say that the school is a community asset and that the State will not be allowed to take away these powers.”
After the SGB elections it is crucial that SGB members receive thorough training. “FEDSAS is the leader in school governance with proven experience in training and equipping SGBs. The organisation provides access to extensive resources, legal opinions and documents and training on all aspects of an SGB’s work.”
Later this year the general elections also provide school communities with an opportunity to vote for change in education. “While the SGB elections provide parents with a direct say in the governance of their children’s schools, the general elections provide an opportunity to bring about change at policy-level.”
“As responsible parents, guardians, and South Africans it is everyone’s duty to participate in these elections. It is easy to complain about all the problems in education but this year there will be ample opportunity to make a real difference,” says Deacon.
FEDSAS’ campaign was launched today with the slogan Your community, your school – vote! Schools and organisations that want to become involved in the elections will receive access to marketing material and video messages from many different South Africans. They can also join the FEDSAS social media campaign with the hashtag #SchoolElections2024. Prof. Thuli Madonsela and musician Jo Black are the first well-known South Africans who will motivate parents this week to participate.
As was the case in the previous three decades, FEDSAS will be there to make available the organisation’s experience, expertise, and resources for quality education to become a reality for all children.
For more information about the SGB elections as well as FEDSAS’ training programmes and other resources, visit www.fedsas.org.za
PHOTO: At FEDSAS’ launch of the school governing body elections were, from left to right, Mr James Ndlebe of the Department of Basic Education, Ms Juané van der Merwe, Deputy CEO of FEDSAS, and Dr Jaco Deacon, CEO of FEDSAS.