Newspaper clipping – The Mercury – 18 August 2009

NO UNFAIR DISCRIMINATION

Schools may be forced to offer all 11 languages

Schools may be forced to offer all of the 11 official languages in the country and principals will be in charge of finances for school governing bodies.

This is according to proposed changes in the South African Schools Act, which is being sent out for public comment by the Department of Education. The proposals were made by a council of education ministers last week.

The changes include:

  • A provision that places an obligation on school governing bodies to ensure there is no unfair discrimination among official languages offered at a school.
  • Amendments that will require the principal to assist the governing bodies with the management of the school funds, to take reasonable steps to prevent financial mal-administration, to sit on all financial committees of the school and to report mismanagement or mal-administration to the governing bodies and the head of department.
  • A provision that will prohibit non-educational activities in schools, such as party political and related activities during school time; provisions that will prevent governing bodies from availing school property for business purposes that are not bona-fide fundraising operations, such as a school tuck-shop.

The proposed amendments also prevent governing bodies from taking out loans or overdrafts without permission from the MEC.

School governing bodies were warned of some of the changes earlier this year, but Kathy Callaghan, from Governors’ Alliance, said they had not seen the proposed changes and still needed clarity on some of the points. She was particularly concerned about the provision, which would allow principals to be in charge of finances.
“This seems to be in conflict with the powers that governing bodies now have as laid out in the Act,” said Callaghan.
“It would make principals the watchdog of governing bodies, which would be problematic. Besides, don’t principals already have a job, looking after curriculum at the school?”

Callaghan also queried what the provision for language was about, saying that as It was schools did not turn away pupils based on what language they spoke.
“Technically, language is part of the criteria for admission into a school,” said Callaghan.