Do SA schools have access to the right resources and management tools?

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12 year old girl wearing a reusable, protective face mask in classroom while working on school work at her desk.
12 year old girl wearing a reusable, protective face mask in classroom while working on school work at her desk.

Many parents of school going children do not realise the volume of management that goes into the education of their children.

Schools are hugely complex businesses which would scare the daylights out of many-a-respected business manager. Added to this is the unprecedented chaos caused in our schools due to Covid-19 and lockdown.

The average school is larger than most small and medium-sized enterprises and the management teams are tasked with handling an annual budget of potentially millions of rands. 

This excludes additional proceeds and subsidies, dealing with a debtors book and not to mention the preparation of audit and financial statements.

But do SA schools have access to the right resources and management tools?

Many experts say no, and state that if businesses were administered the way some of our schools are, they would not be in business for long.

Willem Kitshoff, CEO of the d6, one of South Africa’s leading online school management platforms, says that when we think of schools, we tend to think only about the learning, and tend to forget the complexities around the school management.

"Schools have an average staff complement of 70 or more people and need to handle employee payroll, disciplinary procedures, leave, performance appraisals etc. Added to this are possibly 1000 learners in different age groups across different grades, plus their parents."

Kitshoff further explains that in addition to the business side of things, are the concerns of students and parents. 

"Hand in hand with this comes all the needs of these students and parents – academic records, extra-mural activities, merit rewards, disciplinary actions, billings, communications, parent evenings – the list is almost endless. There is also the requisite school grounds and equipment management – everything from cleaning services to gardening, maintenance, repairs and IT infrastructure," says Kitshoff.

And then, of course, there are the finances

"The financial management alone of a school is a massive and complex task and many schools may not have the means to pay for an experienced accountant," Kitshoff cautions. 

From school fees to the daily flow of cash in schools, Kitshoff provides a snap shot of how much money comes into a school in a "average day at an average school." 

"When it comes to cash, if you think about an average day at an average school, you have parents coming in to pay their school fees, the purchasing of clothing at the school store, cash changing hands at the tuck shop, as well as money being spent on supplies for cleaning teams, canteens, staff lounges – the list goes on. All of these financial exchanges need to be managed. Then one has to consider things such as children entering or leaving a school in the middle of a year; differing fee structures for different learners in different grades; Grade 12 fees needing to be recovered over 9 months instead of 10; ad-hoc fees that need to come in for projects - managing all of these aspects together is extremely challenging," Kitshoff explains. 

ALSO READ Are schools keeping your private information safe?

Reports, reports and more reports

And it doesn’t end there.

Following all of this comes the reporting requirements. "You haven't seen complex and frequent reporting until you have seen school reporting," Kitshoff says jokingly. 

"Schools need to produce weekly, monthly and annual reports for a wide range of audiences including parents, learners, management committees, the School Governing Body and, importantly, the Department of Basic Education - who require regular reporting by law."

But this becomes a tricky task given that school managers are also teachers and principals with little to no business experience. 

"The crux is that most school managers – principals and school governing bodies - are ultimately educators at their core and do not typically come from business management backgrounds, so expecting them to keep a school running like a well-oiled machine whilst also looking after the very best interests of each child in their care is a daunting task!"

Schools need the right management tools to perform at their best

According to Kitshoff, many SA schools are operating with tech platforms with no data safety strategies and no way to access the data other than from a campus-based device.

"As highlighted, during Covid-19, when schools had to switch to remote learning, these old systems left much to be desired."

"The looming POPI Act also places a huge onus on schools for data safety – which is a massive issue as was seen recently when hundreds of teachers’ from Durban had their personal information leaked online."

"How do we expect schools to operate effectively if the way they are being managed is still 'old school'?"

Submitted to Parent24 by d6

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