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Chapter 11

PARENTAL MATTERS

11.1 PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT

11.1.1Legislative and Policy Framework

ACTS

  • The South African Schools Act, No. 84 of 1996 [SASA]
  • The National Education Policy Act, 1996 (Act No. 27 of 1996) [NEPA]
  • The South African Constitution Act 108 of 1996 [SAC]
  • The Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Act No. 108 of 1996 [BoR]

 

GUIDELINES

  • Guidelines for the consideration of Governing Bodies in adopting a Code of Conduct for Learners (Published under General Notice 776 in Government Gazette 18900 of 15 May 1998) [NG SGB CC]

11.1.2Framework for the Development of School Policy on Parental Involvement

A Community gets the school it deserves.  The effectiveness of a school is equal to the effectiveness of the involvement and support of the community.

The democratic governance of a school rests with the most important stakeholders, namely mainly parents, but also educators, non-teaching staff, learners (secondary schools) and community members.

  1. Rights and Obligations of Parents
    The Governing Body of a school must inform all parents of learners admitted to a school of their rights and obligations in terms of the South African Schools Act of 1996, and any applicable provincial law.  Parents must specifically be informed about their rights and obligations in respect to the governance and affairs of the school, including the process of deciding the school budget, any decision of a parent meeting relating to school fees, and the Code of Conduct for Learners.
  2. Parental Involvement in Governance
    (A “parent” can mean the parent or guardian of a learner, the person legally entitled to custody of a learner or a person who fulfils the role of a parent or custodian with regard to the learner’s education at school)

    • The School Governing Body (SGB)
      • School governance is about creating, implementing, supervising and evaluating policies and rules, which guide and govern the actions of the school and its members. Parents must form a majority of members of a School Governing Body, because according to the South African Schools Act, they are the ones who have the primary responsibility for ensuring that the school is run well.  The South African Schools Act states that the number of parents in any School Governing Body must be one more than the combined total of all the other members with voting rights.  If, for instance, a School Governing Body is made up of a total of 11 members, then at least six of the members should be parents.  In the case of a public school for learners with special needs, the South African Schools Act makes participation of other representatives in the School Governing Body possible.  In addition to parents of learners, educators at the school, non-teaching members of staff, learners in grade eight or higher, the South African School Act makes possible the election or co-option of the following people in a special school:
        • representatives of parents of learners with special education needs (voting);
        • representatives of organisations of disabled persons (non-voting);
        • disabled persons (voting);
        • experts in appropriate fields of special needs education (non-voting); and
        • representatives of sponsoring organisations (non-voting).
      • School governance is also about raising money for the school and overseeing the finances thereof.
        • School fees
          Parents contribute to the school financially by means of school fees and in terms of other support.  This ensures that they have a major stake in the effective operation of the school.  They are represented by the parent majority on the SGB and it is important that the SGB should report back regularly and often to the parent body in order to promote positive parent involvement and support.  Parents who are exempted from paying school fees are encouraged to render voluntary services to the school.
          Parents of learners at a public school carry serious responsibilities with respect to the determination of a school’s budget, its sources of revenue, and (if fees are charged) the level of fees and for adhering the conditions for exemption of parents from fee paying.  Furthermore, if a majority of parents vote in favour of school fees, all parents are responsible for paying the required fee, unless an exemption has been granted.  But no learner can be denied admission, or otherwise discriminated against, on grounds of the parent’s inability or failure to pay fees.
        • Fundraising committee
          By means of the fundraising committee, parents can make a considerable contribution to the school fund and, therefore, also to the standard of teaching at the school.  This committee is the operational arm of the Finance Committee and may:

          • approach people in business to sponsor things for the school or pay for certain expenses;
          • approach members of the public or parents to donate money or anything else to the school; and
          • organise a market, hold a concert or collect and sell goods for the school.
      • Selection panel for appointment of staff
        Another high level of parental involvement is by participation in the interviewing committee.  It is important that the representative with the concurrence of the SGB arrange fundraising functions or activities to raise additional funds for the school (e.g. It is imperative for the principal to be a member of the committee.
    •  Interviews
      • Then there should be three or four other members. The maximum number of members should be five.
        The selection panel shall comprise:

        • the Principal of the school;
        • one departmental representative (who may be the School Principal);
        • members of the SGB (parents to form the majority); and
        • one union representative per union as observers to the process of short listing, interviews and the drawing up of a preference list.
      • Annual General Meeting (AGM)
        Decisions at the AGM are made according to the majority vote of the parents present.
      • Policies
        It is the responsibility of the SGB, SMT and Principal to develop a set of policies according to which the school is governed, managed and administered.  Policy documents linked to governance should always be developed in consultation with the parent community and in accordance with the relevant legislation.  This can include policies like the following:

        • the School Policy document, including;
        • admission policy;
        • language policy;
        • religious policy; and
        • Code of Conduct for the learners.
          (“Subject to any applicable provincial law, a Governing Body of a public school must adopt a Code of Conduct for the learners after consultation with the learners, parents and educators of the school”.)
          The ultimate responsibility for learners’ behaviour rests with their parents or guardians.  It is expected that parents will:

          • support the school, and require learners to observe all school rules and regulations and accept responsibility for any misbehaviour on their part; and
          • take an active interest in their children’s schoolwork and make it possible for the children to complete assigned homework.
        • Code of Conduct of the SGB:
          • Parents should attend meetings that the Governing Body convenes for them.
          • Parents have the right to take legal action against any educator, learner or person who unlawfully violates the constitutional rights of their children by, e.g. corporal punishment, injury to a child, etc.
          • There needs to be a Code of Conduct for the use of school facilities.
      • SASA determines the following: “As the school has been developed for the use of all the learners attending the school, it is the privilege and obligation of every learner to protect and carefully use all the facilities and equipment so that others who come after them can also enjoy the privilege.  The parent or legal guardian of anyone who intentionally misuses, damages or defaces any school property should replace it or pay for the property so damaged”.
        • The Constitution of the Representative Council of Learners
        • Etc.
  3. Parental Involvement in Management
    Subject to the South African Schools Act and any applicable provincial law, the professional management of a public school must be undertaken by the principal under the authority of the Head of Department.  There are, however, aspects where the parents can play a valuable supportive role in management.

    • School safety
      • One of the most important factors contributing to safe schools and low levels of violence is good school management. Schools with clear norms and expectations, fair procedures, and schools that involve all members of the community (parents, educators, learners, principals, administrators, community services) are less likely to experience high levels of violence than schools where these systems and relationships are not in place.
      • The provision of school safety requires a multi-sect oral and multi-disciplinary approach. Effective partnerships need to be developed within schools, amongst parents, within communities, law enforcement agents, social services and civil society.  The purpose of these partnerships is to develop an integrated approach and shared responsibility for the school as part of the community.
      • The best reason for working together is that all parties share responsibility for the safety of the school and the community it serves. Schools and parent communities interact; the one cannot be safe unless the other is safe.
      • Public schools must encourage Governing Body members and parents to participate in community policing forums.
      • The SGB and SMT should actively involve the parent community in developing a School Safety Policy.
    • Compulsory School Attendance
      • High level parental involvement in school activities will ensure regular school attendance.
      • Subject to the South African Schools Act and any applicable provincial law, every parent must cause every learner for whom he or she is responsible to attend a school from the first school day of the year in which such learner reaches the age of seven years until the last school day of the year in which such learner reaches the age of fifteen years or the ninth grade, whichever occurs first.
      • The right of learners to basic education places the obligation on them to attend school regularly during school hours. Should a learner be absent his / her parent or legal guardian must notify the school to explain the absence.
      • Subject to the South African Schools Act and any other applicable law:
        • Any parent who, without just cause and after a written notice from the Head of Department, fails to comply with the above, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.
        • Any other person who, without just cause, prevents a learner who is subject to compulsory attendance from attending a school, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.
      • Parents should not enrol / allow their children to take part in activities that keep them from school.
      • A lack of parental supervision often leads to truancy and can even lead to more serious consequences like substance abuse and crime. Rather than allowing learners to return home where parents are being absent for various reasons, the SGB, with the help of the parent- and broader community, can establish an after-school centre with proper supervision and organised constructive activities.
    • HIV/AIDS
      Besides sexuality, morality and life skills education being provided by educators, parents should be encouraged to provide their children with healthy morals, sexuality education and guidance regarding sexual abstinence until marriage and faithfulness to their partners.  Learners and students should be educated about their rights concerning their own bodies, to protect themselves against rape, violence, inappropriate sexual behaviour and contracting HIV.
    • Visits to public schools by parents
      • Parents have the right to visit the public school where their children have been admitted but such visits may not disrupt any of the school activities.
      • Parents are required to make an appointment with the principal of the school for a personal appointment with him or her prior to the visit and must state the reason for the visit and the persons who may be involved during the visit.
  4. Parental Involvement in Curriculum Matters
    • Academic support to learners by:
      • continuous support of learners by parents in all academic matters will ensure a learner with self-confidence and self-esteem; and
      • involving themselves with the homework of learners. The assistance of parents with homework should be based on control and continuous support rather than doing the work for the learners.  This will also ensure that books and other learner material are not lost or mislaid.
      • regular attendance at parent evenings.
    • Value system
      • In the modern day and age, with both parents absent during the day, it is crucial that the school fulfils its role as substitute parent (“in loco parentis”).
      • The school, as substitute parent, must play an active part to instil a value system within the learners, but can only do so with the assistance of the parents and the community.
  5. Parental Involvement in Extra-curricular Matters
    The specialised knowledge of parents in coaching or training can be used to the advantage of the learners and the school in a broader sense.

    • The following principles should be considered when involving parents in training or coaching:
      • Try to avoid involving a parent where his / her own child /children is / are participating.
      • Parents who train or coach should commit themselves for at least the whole season.
      • A code of conduct should be compiled for all trainers to which everybody should commit themselves.
    • A professional educator should always be the first in charge where parents are involved in training or coaching.
      • The involvement of parents should not diminish the educational involvement of the educator or the educational value of the extra-mural activity.

See the SAOU Legal Services Newsletter 1/2017