Salomo N. yaNdeshimona
As an educator, I contemplated the following questions: what is the role of a school board, or school governing body? How much do these people make? Can they be compared to the board of directors we see in corporate companies?
What qualifies one to become a school board member? Well, this article aims to gaze into the issue of school governing bodies or school boards, and make some recommendations.
A school governing body, also called a school board or committee, is a statutory body of parents, educators, non-teaching staff and learners who work together to promote the well-being and effectiveness of the school, and thereby enhance learning and teaching.
Their roles soar around, as per the Education Act 16 of 2001 (part 1); promoting the best interest of the school and striving to ensure its development through the provision of inclusive quality education for all learners; adopt a constitution that complies with the prescribed minimum requirements; develop the vision and mission statement of the school, and a code of conduct for learners at the school. They support the principal, teachers and other staff members of the school in the performance of their professional functions; address the inability of a principal or a teacher to carry out their functions effectively; they administer and control the school finances, property, infrastructure and hostels; and they advise and assist the regional director on misconduct and disciplinary actions concerning teachers and other staff members at the school. We can all agree that their functions are paralleled to that of the board of directors at private and corporate organisations. Nevertheless, according to Act 16 of 2001 on education, they serve voluntarily. There is no minimum requirement for one to become a school board member. Anyone can be a board member, irrespective of qualification or literacy level.
These are people responsible for assisting on the misconduct of school staff, making the recommendation of the appointment for teachers, principals, and hiring in one way or another professional people with tertiary qualifications. Imagine a grade 8 certificate holder (board member) overseeing the work and appointment of a degree holder, or even better? Board members do not receive any sitting allowance, unlike corporate company boards who rake in colossal allowances and perks.
They do not even receive refreshments, according to the Act, for their sitting time, which can be a whole day’s gathering. I thus feel the absence of allowances, refreshments, minimum requirements and further scrutiny on appointing or nominating board members of schools needs a review. It denies schools from attracting competent people. We need to attract qualified people who can understand proceedings in the official language, can read statutes with sound understanding, apply the Act, innovate and better direct schools to greener pastures.
Many innovative, educated people shy away from voluntary service in school boards as there is no remunerative measure attached, plus it is donkey’s work that deserves better if it is meant to work out. At the moment, the system of school board elections attracts those with no qualification at some point. Some cannot even read, let alone understand with sound knowledge statutes that govern them and our schools, which can enable them to perform their tasks well. I thus wish that we shall review and rearrange this approach and the Act to better it to be useful to schools in our communities.
We shall set minimum requirements, and attach minimum allowances to attract competent people who can develop our schools to our desired levels. Failure to do this shall lead us to expect less from school boards, and to continue having statutes meant for filling file cabinets, yet not useful in being implemented to the fullest.