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A matter of principals

School governing bodies (SGBs) expressed dismay this week that the department of basic education was discussing whether to remove their power to appoint school principals.

Speaking on school development in Bloemfontein recently, deputy minister of basic education Enver Surty said Parliament had discussed whether the appointment of school principals should be solely the responsibility of provincial education departments.

SGBs recommend three candidates as principals and provincial departments then make the final appointment from those candidates.

But two SGBs told the Mail & Guardian they would be wary of any limitation of their role in making appointments. It would amount to a “move towards authoritarian state control” of education, said Paul Colditz, the chief executive of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools, which has about 1 200 member schools countrywide.

It is “unthinkable that a leader could be foisted upon a school by provincial education departments”, Colditz said.

Matakanye Matakanye, secretary general of the 7 000-strong National Association of School Governing Bodies, said: “If they take this role from SGBs, how do they expect [their] capacity to be developed? The department is responsible for ensuring that SGBs have the capacity to operate effectively and it should be allocating resources to ensure this happens.”

Departmental spokesperson Granville Whittle said governing bodies, “particularly at rural schools, do not always make suitable appointments” and often lack the capacity to do so. Parliament’s education portfolio committee had discussed the matter this year, as had national and provincial ministers. But they are “just discussions at this point”, said Whittle. “If such a review of legislation does take place, it would be applied only in special circumstances.”

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