IMPLEMENTING THE NATIONAL NORMS AND STANDARDS FOR SCHOOL FUNDING POLICY: IMPLICATIONS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND EQUITY
In 1994 the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa brought with it hope that all students, especially historically disadvantaged students, will be provided quality education. The government’s attempt at redressing historical imbalances and achieving equity became central policy components in attempts to restructure South African education. Many education policies such as the post provisioning norms, rationalization and redeployment of teachers and non-teaching staff, management of school fees, the functioning of governing bodies and school funding norms and standards and pragmatic interventions demonstrate this aspiration. The purpose of this paper was to investigate whether the implementation of the National Norms and Standards for School Funding (NNSSF) policy addresses equity and social justice in funding public schools. The social justice theory was used as a theoretical framework to develop a better understanding of how the provision of education needs to translate into broader educational transformation and empowering process that can be seen to meaningfully translate into positive gains in the classroom, the school and, in terms of outcomes and upward mobility, especially for the historically disadvantaged learners. A quantitative study, using a survey consisting of two sections, was used to answer the research question. Section A included 13 questions that were designed to elicit biographical information from the respondents. Section B consisted of 45 items that probed the perceptions of respondents regarding the implications of the NNSSF policy on equity. The closed-ended items were designed to garner the views of teachers and school managers as to how schools were funded and how these funds were disbursed in the quest for quality education. The questionnaire further differentiated between fee-paying schools and no-fee paying schools and also, schools having section 21 functions and schools without section 21 functions.
The findings revealed that although it is well intended, the NNSSF policy has not achieved its goal of redressing the imbalances in education of the past, nor has it succeeded in achieving equity (in terms of education funding and resources) at both primary and secondary public schools. The main stumbling block appears to be the way schools employ funding provided by the Provincial Education Departments. Most of the poorer schools have not applied for additional functions in terms of section 21 of the South African Schools Act and therefore depend on district offices to manage their state funding. We advocate that school governing bodies (SGBs) should be trained in financial management so that they will have the requisite knowledge and skills to make informed financial decisions for school improvement. These SGBs would be empowered to self-manage the schools’ funds and contribute to addressing equity in public schools.