The South African Muslim Network (SAMNET)
would like to request Muslim organisations, stakeholders & leaders to inform, educate
the Muslim community on actively participating in School Governing Bodies (SGB) elections
to be held across SA Public Schools over the next few months
These elections are legislated to be held every 3 years
at the tens of thousands of Public schools & there have been proposals to extend the term of SGBs. SGBs are critical to the functioning & operation of Public schools.
It is our opinion & that of those we have engaged already, that if we can positively influence school education in SA it will directly benefit all our children’s future & that of South Africa.
It is important for Muslims to be active in civil structures of South Africa. Our legislation & education system encourages participation of communities in their schools & we would lose by not using this opportunity.
School Governing Bodies have a direct influence on the following, among others:
- Control of financial & operational governance of the school.
- Appointment of principals, teachers & administrators.
- Setting of fees.
- Setting & application of policy.
- Influences the ethos, values & discipline at the school.
- Influence on the way the curriculum is interpreted & applied.
All of the above can be used to influence positively & negatively:
- Access to select groups of students.
- The demographic profile of students.
- The quality of education provided by the school.
PROCESS & IMPLICATIONS
Elections are held within the first few months of the year, normally February to April(any community mobilization plans must be addressed urgently).
- Candidates must be nominated & accept the nomination as per the school’s rules & may be needed two days before. (nominations must be timeous.)
- The election requires a caucus failing which a second date is set where a caucus is not required (parents must avail themselves on both evenings). A small number of attendees improves chances of election for select groups.
- Each parent has 1 vote, so a single child in a school has 2 votes. Both parents must attend to maximize the votes.
- The parents must present their IDs before the vote & register at the election.
- Votes are cumulative. To improve the chances of a preferred candidate, vote
only for the candidate/s you are supporting. Additional votes may count AGAINST your candidate!
- The votes are counted in the presence of observers.
- The SGB can co-opt unelected/additional candidates but are not obliged to do so.
It needs to be noted that the majority of our Muslim students are NOT in Private/Islamic/Majority Muslim schools. In light of this we need to consider theimportance of participation & representation.
Where candidates are being proposed by a group in the community there are a number of factors that should be considered:
- Any level headed person who can work with a diverse team & add value will benefit the SGB.
- SGBs & other parents tend to also look to candidates who have beneficial skills like finance, law, education, human resources, building maintenance & fund-raising.
- Candidates need to have sufficient time to participate in SGB meetings, subcommittees or projects. This is often minimal but varies by school (some require more input.)
Good candidates with the values & understanding of needs of the community who may NOT be Muslim need to be supported.
However we must caution AGAINST this being viewed as an “Islamazation” of education, where candidates’ efforts may take away from the efficient, non-racial, multirelegious & inclusive nature of public education.
FEEDBACK & GUIDANCE
The following input was received from educators, professionals & SGB members:
- Despite the number of Private Islamic schools, we must realise that most Muslim students in SA are in Public Schools. In most cases they are minorities & in less affluent communities.
- Candidates cannot enforce a view but can influence & lodge objections when within the SGB. The message of participation must be seen in a multi-year or inter-generational context. The impact of this will be gradual but could be for decades if sustainable.
- Parents often seem to believe that getting their children into Former Model C schools is the end point, when that is actually only the start.
- Parents can make unreasonable demands of the school discouraging diversity & portraying Muslims as difficult.
- Where candidates are elected they can be frustrated by being marginalised.
- If we want to build a better SA we need to start in the schools.
- Most parents make efforts/take leave to attend school functions or sports. SGB elections are as important, if not more so.
- Previous generations have made sacrifices & we’re involved in the development & administration of schools even under oppressive & adverse conditions. It is our responsibility to make an effort to give some of our time to ensure the education of all future generations is improved.
Over the past few years SAMNET has assisted & come to know of a number of instances involving students, parents & teachers where there have been uncompromising or even hostile incidents with schools.
Many of these have been with SGBs or principals. In most cases a visible presence & engaged parent body would have been beneficial. If parents are not involved proactively it makes mediation more difficult should it be needed.
Conversely there are many instances where Muslims have built a reputation on SGBs or through building relationships for their contributions. Schools have been able to facilitate the reasonable accommodation of Muslims & other communities.
Call to Action & Information:
SAMNET calls on our community leaders & organisations to use this communication & the information provided to engage the public to participate in SGB elections across SA within the next few weeks.
Where possible communities may choose to co-ordinate & plan over the next few weeks to identify and support selected candidates.
SAMNET has drafted a general communication/poster/flyer for the public, to be circulated at Musjids and other locations. This will be avaialbe from our office.
Speakers and Advice:
We have also identified Educators, SGB Chairpersons and SGB members who can share their experiences and knowledge and are able to advise accordingly.
These people available for interviews, telecons and possibly meetings. Arrangements can be made via our office.
Feedback and Ideas:
We ask that you provide us with feedback and ideas that could be shared across our Network to make these a successful and inclusive SGB Election year.
Dr Faisal Suliman