V. Chetty, C. Loock

University of Johannesburg (SOUTH AFRICA)
Apartheid policies reinforced segregation by using state education to turn an already inequitable education system into a means of control. Furthermore, there was a lack of democratic control which came in the form of exclusion of teachers, parents and learners from decision making processes. Soon after the abolishment of apartheid in 1994, South African education entered a new democratic era. The emergence of democracy signalled a transformation within the education system premised on the tenets of critical pedagogy.

Democracy in the South African context is signified by decentralisation of education through the establishment of democratically elected school governing bodies (SGBs). The South African Schools Act (SASA) (1996) allocates the following functions to SGBs: adopting a vision and code of conduct for the school; developing and adopting policies for the school, including admission and language policies; maintaining and improving school property; and determination of extramural curriculum and subject choices.

This paper addresses the central question: How do educators’ experience governance at a historically advantaged school in post-apartheid South Africa? In responding to this enquiry, this paper analyses school governance in relation to theoretical insights from retrospective and current education policies based on data generated from a qualitative case study conducted at a historically advantaged (ex-Model C) school in the Gauteng East District, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The purposive sample comprised the principal, institutional development and support officer and four educators Semi-structured interviews were used to elicit data from the participants. This was supported by document analysis.

This paper argues that despite the advancements made in education with the decentralisation of school governance, inequities still prevail. In addition, the decentralisation of school governance has failed to address legacy apartheid inequalities inherited from the apartheid era. Schools have not shifted from practices of segregation and discrimination to embrace a culture of human rights and anti-discrimination. This is displayed in the formulation of admission and language policies. Findings made in this study confirm that historically advantaged schools have largely retained their apartheid era racial profiles due to a combination of factors such as the fee structure, socio-economic status, the medium of instruction and geographical access. Furthermore, previously disadvantaged learners still face barriers in accessing education. Consequently, by abdicating responsibility to SGBs, most schools serving previously disadvantaged learners have been unable to accomplish the ideals envisioned in SASA to advance deracialisation.

These findings provide insight into the following key issues by:
(i) adding to the body of knowledge about decentralising school governance in historically advantaged schools;
(ii) highlighting the need for guidelines to improve the recruitment and selection processes of SGB members to ensure active participation on the SGB committee;
(iii) stressing the need for training and induction of SGB members; and
(iv) reiterating the call for the formation of positive supportive groups to strengthen relations between the school and community.