Ed­u­ca­tion amend­ment bill caned

Con­cerns over move to limit pow­ers of school gov­ern­ing bod­ies

The Sunday Independent - - NEWS - NOKUTHULA NTULI

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.

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