Governing schools as inclusive spaces

2019-07-02 06:00

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 etcetera, 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.

A recent book by Brian Levy, the academic director of University of Cape Town’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.

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 hosted a one-day workshop that focused 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 among future South African generations.

Dr Solange Rosa is 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.

Dr Solange Rosa Email associate faculty/senior policy and strategy adviser and an independent consultant

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.