Education amendment bill caned
Concerns over move to limit powers of school governing bodies
THOUSANDS of concerned parents and education stakeholders have written to the Department of Education in protest over the draft basic education laws amendment bill.
The bill has been criticised for limiting the powers of school governing bodies in matters related to the appointment school heads of departments, principals and their deputies. It also seeks to hand control to the department in determining a school’s language policy and to prevent the disruption of schooling and corruption.
Nonhlanhla Gumede, a former school governing body deputy chairperson at a prominent Durban school who is also a lawyer, said she did not believe the bill would pass in its current form.
The issue of the promotional appointments was concerning, but there were good aspects to the bill, Gumede said. The department must be commended for recognising the need to mete out harsher penalties to parents who prevented pupils from attending school and also to punish those who disrupted schooling activities, she said.
KwaZulu-Natal Parents’ Association chairperson Vee Gani said some of amendments were not feasible.
“It says schools should have more than one language of instruction, but the department knows that it has repeatedly failed to provide adequate teachers to some schools because of lack of funding and so forth,” Gani said.
“Schools already teach at least two languages, but to have both as a language of instruction will require books and study guides in both languages which currently don’t exist in languages such as isiZulu.”
Parents were only asking for an equal distribution of power where the head of the department would be the only decision-maker and other stakeholders’ views were silenced, he said.
Gumede and Gani conceded that there had been cases where the actions of school governing bodies disrupted the functioning of the school, and took bribes from those wanting promotions, a problem the bill sought to address.
“The department’s own officials have been found to have colluded with school governing bodies in incidents of corruption like the selling of posts, which is even more reason why power should not be given to one person who will not have to account to the other stakeholders,” said Gumede.
Teachers’ unions were also against the proposal that the department take over the process of promo- tions in schools. Allen Thompson of the National Teachers Union (Natu) agreed that some school governing bodies lacked capacity in the hiring of senior teachers and in dealing with school finances.
“Yes, some lack capacity in dealing with matters of related to the promotional appointments and issues related to the management of the schools’ finances but the department should rather look at the ways of capacitating them,” he said.
Therona Moodley, of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA (Naptosa), said the draft bill would lead to a “dictatorial and undemocratic” situation and the department did not consider crea- tive ways of managing challenges.
“We acknowledge that there are some school governing bodies that lack insight to recommend the appointment of school managers. Together all stakeholders must find alternatives that will benefit all,” said Moodley.
On Wednesday, Natu made its representations to the department on the bill and Thompson said the union also asked for a review of the clause related to security.
“Teachers are not security guards and to have a bill that says they must search the pupils then take the drugs or weapon to the nearest police station could potentially put their lives at risk,” he said.