Proposed curbing of school governing body powers

DRAFT legislation which proposes ruling out the participation of school governing bodies (SGBs) in the appointment of teachers at government schools has produced an outcry from some education stakeholders, including several teachers’ unions.

Interested parties have until May 15 to comment on the Draft Education Act Amendment Bill, published in the Government Gazette of April 11.

The proposed amendment to the Employment of Educators Act 1998, as amended by section 7 of Act 53 of 2000, seeks an insertion which enables a provincial department to make the appointment of a new recruit or applicant after a break in service without the recommendation of an SGB.

The reasoning behind the proposed amendment is that provinces are in a better position to distribute teachers, especially to schools in rural areas. In the call for comments, the Education Department said rural schools found it difficult to recruit teachers as most teachers preferred urban areas or areas adjacent to urban settlements.

The aim of the amendment would be “to ensure the fair distribution of well-qualified teachers”.

Chairman of the Federation of South African SGBs, Paul Colditz, said on Monday the most important role of governing bodies was the appointment of teachers. In terms of the Constitution the interests of children should be paramount—and as parents formed the majority of members of any SGB, they had the best interests of the pupils at heart.

Colditz has indicated that the body would take up the issue in talks with the Education Department and would be making a submission to the parliamentary education portfolio committee.

If this failed however, the body intended taking the matter to court.
Chief executive officer of the National Union of Educators in the Eastern Cape, Graeme Gilmour, said the union had two main reasons why it opposed the draft legislation.

“Firstly, this would be a serious threat to the rights of governing bodies and secondly, if implemented, the legislation would have a significant detrimental effect on new entries into the education profession at a time when the profession is already facing several challenges.”

National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa deputy chairman Dave Bolt said the draft legislation was “unfortunate in terms of the move in ensuring the overall democratisation of education”.

While government’s attempt to ensure quality appointments at rural schools was understood and would be supported by the union, an attempt to take “the say of communities and governing bodies away was drastic”.

The strength of the South African Schools Act at present was that communities were able to influence the appointment of teachers based on the needs of such communities.

“It would be difficult for a centralised decision-making process to take any other need, purely than qualification, into consideration.”

Democratic Alliance representative on education MP Richard Ntuli said removing decision-making powers from SGBs was not the way to correct the imbalances between historically black and white schools in the country.

“However good the intentions might be, this is a potentially dangerous route.”

Ntuli said the DA believed that the power to make decisions should be brought “down to the people - centralisation of decision-making powers is too easily exploitable”.

He said the “morally indefensible” policies of the past had left a wide gap between the more affluent, predominantly white schools and impoverished predominantly black schools, and that the DA would work with the department to seek ways to close the gap.

Union of South African Professional Educators national publicity secretary Douglas Rwentela, and National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union provincial secretary Cyril Langbooi both said they would first like to find out more before commenting.

National Education Department representative Moletwane Likhethe said the draft legislation was a proposal at present and open for public input. - Sapa

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