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Making schools financially fit

Schools are big business these days. And it’s not just proceeds from tuckshops and cake sales that make it into school accountants’ books.

In the Western Cape alone, public schools handle about R950-million a year.

In recognition of this, a new training programme was launched in the Western Cape last month with the intention of strengthening business management in schools.

The Southern African Bursars of Independent Schools Association (Sabisa) is behind the programme, borrowing from a model already successfully operating in the United Kingdom.

A number of workshops have been held in the Western Cape over the past few months. These are the first steps in the development of a South African certificate-level course in school business management. The target date for this is January 2007.

David Ginsberg, chairperson of Sabisa, says: “We had such an overwhelming interest in the workshops that we had to turn some people away. For us it’s a strong indication of how sorely these skills are needed.”

Western Cape minister of education Cameron Dugmore, who attended one of the workshops last month, says: “It is of utmost importance that the necessary skills are developed and mastered in order to manage funds and resources – especially of our public schools – more effectively, efficiently and economically.”

Ginsburg says the courses will be structured for those who simply want to sharpen their skills or those who envisage school business administration as a career option. “We plan to accommodate all those from NQF level three to NQF level six or the equivalent of a degree in school business management,” says Ginsburg.

The idea is to create a new career path for school bursars eventually.

“It used to be that the administrator was a mom or a senior teacher who would take on the extra task of managing the administration, but that person didn’t have formal qualifications.

“With the certificate and degree course that we envisage, it means that they can now become qualified professionals in the field,” says Ginsberg.

He stresses that the initiative is not meant to lessen the role of principals, but rather to allow them to focus more on academic issues and less on the administration of school finances.

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