As you may be aware, the School Governing Body (SGB) elections take place from the 6-28 March.
Did you know that these elections, which take place every three years, are the biggest elections of public representatives in South Africa after the national, provincial and municipal elections? Even more telling is that these elections actually elect more officials than all three political elections put together. This is a magnificent achievement.
The governing body has a significant influence on children’s education and determines, among others, a school’s vision and mission, policies regarding admission and language as well as financial management. High participation in the elections has a knock-on impact and increases the quality of school management. The elections allow parents to decide who serves on this body. The SGB is therefore responsible for important decisions regarding their children’s education, which directly impact on the quality of education they receive.
You qualify to stand if you are a parent of a child in school from grade R to 12. Something I learned from the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools is that “an ineffective governing body diminishes a school community’s bargaining power with the state as well as the broader society”. Touche.
Now, for the bad news. The participation in SGB elections is dismal, with minimal interest. The reasons, from the parents’ perspective, are work pressure, fear out of respect of the educators, disinterest, poor communication, fatigue and finally rank irritation at making the effort to go to the school for the elections only for it to be cancelled due to lack of a quorum. This idea, like so many great ideas emanating from the education department, is stillborn because the surplus of good intentions is negated by overburdened implementation staff.
So how do we increase participation? Schools are not blameless here in their engagement with parents. I suggest schools proactively and quickly adopt and use social media. A simple Facebook page, twitter account or Instagram campaigns will help generate hype around the SGB event. Publicity generates awareness, which one hopes will spur sufficient interest for parents to either stand or vote in the election. The SGB remains a fantastic idea. This is the one interface to the school where you have direct input to practically influence your child’s future. Save the tuition money and rather invest time in her school. Your community and family will benefit. Your special skills will be rewarded with community respect, which is something I search for, without success, all day, every day. Our kids hear us complaining – like broken records – about crime, poor service delivery, tax, unemployment, the Proteas and education. These are valid concerns and sometimes all we can do is complain. This month we are presented with a proactive opportunity to get involved with the most important people in our lives – our kids. Remember how your school got a cricket pitch or a pool the year after you left school? Here’s your chance to make it happen in your child’s time frame. Voting is actually my research area and we are busy prototyping a model where one could use a mobile device to identify oneself (authenticate) by natural voice, which prevents impersonation. The mobile device offers convenience by allowing a remote vote to take place from anyplace at anytime. The intention is to improve participation by saving voter time and the associated travel cost. We will allow multiple revotes – with only the last one counting – to mediate vote selling and overt or covert coercion.
I strongly recommend your school have an independent board member, especially if drawn from former pupils, who will bring their historic affinity to the process. By independent I mean a member whose child is not in the school but one who brings a wealth of experience in financial management, fundraising or strategy. Then you will learn from this member as well.
Now you may not know this, but I have not had the privilege of serving on a SGB. In addition, as an honest, neutral academic, I am convinced my son is more than capable to be the ideal head prefect at his school. If you vote for me as Chairman … My best wishes Colin Thakur, Chairman candidate: School Governing Board.
– Colin Thakur is the Director of the iNeSi e-Skills CoLab at the Durban University of Technology. He is a digital activist.
*This article appeared in the East Coast Mail