[lg policy] Governing South Africa's schools as inclusive spaces

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Fri May 17 11:57:31 EDT 2019


Governing South Africa's schools as inclusive spaces

OPINION <https://www.iol.co.za/news/opinion> / 17 MAY 2019, 3:09PM / SOLANGE
ROSA

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Disgruntled parents and pupils protest against overcrowding at Bloekombos
High School where some classes currently accommodate 80 pupils. Picture:
Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Over the past few years, issues relating to inclusion and tolerance of
difference have challenged private and public schools across South Africa.
As instruments of participatory democracy, it is the role of School
Governing Bodies (SGBs), to ensure that schools are safe places for all
learners to learn and thrive. Per section 16 of the South African Schools
Act, the governance of every public school is vested in its governing body.

This means that SGBs are responsible for determining all policies of a
school, including admissions policy, language policy, code of conduct etc.,
as well as for financial management and ensuring employment equity. These
policies can play a vital role in ensuring that schools are inclusive and
tolerant spaces for all learners, staff and parents.

Research shows that an involved community and an effective SGB working with
teachers and dynamic principals at schools have better outcomes than those
schools who do not – even if the latter have more financial and other
resources.
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A recent book by Brian Levy et al, the Academic Director of UCT’s Nelson
Mandela School of Public Governance, The Politics and Governance of Basic
Education: A Tale of Two South African Provinces, looking deeply at schools
in the Western Cape and the Eastern Cape found that strong governance was
directly correlated with strengthened education outcomes.

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Whilst strengthened education outcomes are extremely important, there is
more to learning than the curriculum. Learning environments need to not
only teach but also model the values of dignity, equality and freedom in
our Constitution. School policies and practices should embody these values.
In reality there are already many challenges facing SGBs on the ground.

A lack of interest and participation among parents, limited understanding
of the roles of SGB members and their responsibilities as well as difficult
relationships between school principals and SGBs, which can impact
significantly on the culture and learning at a school.

This highlights why it is important that schools understand the role of
SGBs in governance broadly, and in promoting inclusion and tolerance in
South African schools. In 2018 the Bertha Centre at the UCT Graduate School
of Business, established the Schools Inclusive Governance Network (SIGN),
in response to the need to support SGBs.

SIGN hopes to fill the training gap by providing school communities
(learners, teachers, principals and parents) with practical advice and
support to advance social inclusion through policies and practices in
schools. Training and networking opportunities are provided to SGB members
to learn and share experiences.

On 8 June SIGN will host a one-day workshop that will focus on how SGBs can
lead the way to create inclusive policies and educational spaces, and
provide participants with a network of support in this democratic
endeavour.

It is hoped that initiatives like this will enable more schools to navigate
the challenges of inclusive policy making and embed a culture of
appreciation for diversity amongst future South African generations.

* Dr Solange Rosa is Associate Faculty/Senior Policy and Strategy Adviser
with the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the
UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB), and an independent consultant with
Rosa Burns Ntsekhe Inc.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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