Lack of resources hamper SGB elections

Besides a sedan with a Mpumalanga education department sticker parked outside the anterior block of classrooms, there was no other indication that part of the second largest election process in the country was afoot in Khuphukani, a primary school in the rural KwaNdebele region.

But this past Sunday morning over 50 parents in a school with more than 300 learners turned out for the school governing body (SGB) election.

Tucked in the grade two class in the back end block, the parents had already gathered at the school by 8am for the election, which was one of thousands of others in the country’s more than 24 000 public schools.

The conspicuous blight in Khuphukani’s election was the absence of a photocopying machine, which the leading election officer—a principal from another school in the area—told parents was broken.

The absence of the machine meant both the voters’ roll and the candidates’ list had to be written by hand, work that the three election officers got down to with composure.

But it impacted negatively on the number of candidates, as only seven were nominated for five places. The three election officers replicated more than 50 ballot papers by hand.

Speaking to the Mail & Guardian on Monday Matakanye Matakanye, secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, said lacking election resources are common in many schools but “worse in the rural areas”.

“It’s upon the education department to ensure that come election day there are alternative tools,” said Matakanye, “but many instances now show us that SGBs are not taken seriously.”

Matakanye also blamed lacking advocacy for poor turn-out in many schools. “Stakeholders like the education department should have done more to publicise the elections given their financial muscle.”

Most important elections
SGB elections were the most important after national elections, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said, when she launched the school elections in January. “Treating SGB elections as a priority will help us in further improving performance and the quality of passes we get,” she said.

A lack of resources did not stand in the way of a democratic process in Khuphukani, as by 1pm on Sunday the school had a newly elected SGB. Save for an average secondary school education, the members boast vast experience in school governance.

A quintile two, no-fee school, Khuphukani had 329 learners in 2011. The education department allocated R829 for each child, meaning this year again the school has an estimated annual budget of almost R300 000 that the SGB has to manage.

Besides managing school funds, SGB functions include recommending teachers and principal for appointment in schools and determining schools’ admission, language and religion policies.

For Matakanye, the best that education authorities across the country can do for SGBs, especially those of rural schools, is provide training for the parents so they know their responsibilities and how to carry them out. “SGB members in rural areas do not get quality training. You find that other SGBs never get trained until the end of their three-year terms,” said Matakanye.

The M&G reported last month that the vast majority of SGBs in the country are dysfunctional. A high level of illiteracy among parents, especially in rural areas, stood in the way of many bodies.

Another important role of SGBs is looking after schools’ property. “My wish is that Khuphukani is elevated to the level of schools in townships, which are generally clean,” said Zandile Nkosi, a newly elected member.

In 2010 a speeding van killed a grade one learner outside the school during lunch break, an incident that resulted in a scholar patrol system that was put in place. “I bring my grade R child to the school every morning and the scholar patrol is helpful. My role in the SGB would be to ensure that the scholar patrol is sustained,” said Nkosi.

Bongani Nkosi

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