The month of March will see the election of School Governing Bodies across the country – an election that will have a great impact on the quality of education in our schools. The Catholic Institute of Education has called on parents to get directly involved in their children's education through their school's governing bodies.
The Catholic Institute of Education (CIE) has urged parents to step up and “sacrifice their time and make efforts” to ensure that school governing bodies (SGBs) function properly and are staffed by those who can make a positive contribution to the schools governance – and education at large.
Nationally, the next SGB elections will take place over the month of March. The governing bodies, staffed by teachers and parents of school-going children, are formed in line with the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 in order to govern the affairs of public schools. “The original spirit was to decentralise power and ensure that school communities participated in the governance of their schools,” said CIE's Kelsay Correa.
School governing body elections are the third largest elections after the national/provincial and local government elections in South Africa.
The Institute, which has 335 Catholic schools, with over 7 600 teachers and more than 170 000 learners schools within it's network, has said the SGBs play a vital role in effective management of schools. SGBs have an impact on learners by promoting the best interests of the school and strive to ensure the schools development through the provision of quality education for all learners at the school.
According to the Act, SGBs are called to support educators and school staff and may recommend the appointment of educator and non-educator staff. SGBs are bound by a constitution, code of conduct, language policy and develop a mission statement for the school.
“SGBs in schools [are] of utmost importance and cannot be underestimated,” Correa said in a statement, adding that the role of parents in SGBs is endorsed by Catholic Church doctrine which recognises parents as the first and most important educators of their children.
Archbishop Buti Tlhagale of Johannesburg said the local church recognises the central role parents play in supporting and promoting the vision of education on which our schools are founded.
“Our children are our treasure, our future and our responsibility. We are one family and nothing can be more important to us than that they should have love, security and freedom to become the caring and responsible adults that our country and continent so desperately need,” Tlhagale said in a pastoral letter on Catholic education. “God has entrusted them to us and we all have a role to play in their ongoing formation and progress.”
In being an active part of a child's education, the CIE has also called for parents to serve. “The education system in South Africa is facing many challenges to the extent that some experts have described it as in crisis.” The CIE believes the upcoming elections are an opportune time for parents to take charge of the education of their children and guarantee a better future for them, adding that parents will be “serving our society by investing in its future generations”.
In Catholic Public Schools on Private Property, SGBs have the additional important role of ensuring that schools maintain their distinctive religious character. The SGB co-signs the Deed of Agreement between the owner and the MEC to acknowledge that the school is a Catholic school and commits to uphold this ethos. “It is in this spirit that we encourage parents to elect from among themselves people who have the best interest of the school at heart,” said Correa.