The nature of parental involvement in school governing bodies: A comparative study of four primary schools in the Western Cape

Baker, Ilse (2018-12)

Thesis (MEd)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.


ENGLISH ABSTRACT : In an attempt to make schools democratic through soliciting participation and involvement, school governing bodies (SGBs) were introduced and legislated in 1996 via the South African Schools Act (No. 84 of 1996), and were implemented at schools in 1997. The introduction of SGBs in postapartheid schools is viewed as a means through which to secure parent and community involvement, and thereby ensuring greater parent responsibility and accountability. One of the growing concerns surrounding SGBs in South African schools is that although all SGBs are expected to comply with the same legislation and stipulated responsibilities in terms of the South African Schools Act (No. 84 of 1996), SGBs are expected to function under very different circumstances, and with widely disparate sets of skills and knowledge. The central concern of this research study is the particular capacities, knowledge and skills of parents on SGBs at four historically disadvantaged schools on the Cape Flats, in the Western Cape. Through adopting an interpretivist paradigm, the study sets out to: Understand why and how parents become involved in the SGB. Explore the levels of involvement and contribution of parents on the SGB. Explore the working relationships and responsibilities between parents and the principal on the SGB. Understand how parental involvement affects the functioning of the SGB, and hence the governance of the school. Key findings of the research revealed that parents become involved in the SGB for their own personal reasons and not necessarily to foster a democratic culture at the school – as envisioned in the South African Schools Act (No. 84 of 1996). Parent governors are not aware of the purpose of the SGB and of their roles and responsibilities while serving on the SGB. Poor qualifications, knowledge and skills meant that the parent governors could not necessarily fulfil their roles and responsibilities. The poor fulfilment of roles and responsibilities by parent governors led to a poorly functioning SGB, an increased workload for the principal, and tension between the principal and the SGB. Conversely, where the parent governors are actively involved, there exists an optimally functioning SGB. Finally, the research revealed that the existence of an SGB does not necessarily imply a functioning SGB, bringing into disrepute commonly held assumptions about school governance by parents, particularly in relation to advancing a democratic agenda. The significance of this study lies in its contribution to the existing literature on parent involvement in SGBs in South Africa. Specifically, that although all SGBs are expected to fulfil the same functions across all schools, the particular socio-economic contexts, qualifications, skills and knowledge of parents, have a direct impact on the functionality of the SGB. As this study shows, a poorly capacitated SGB has the potential to add to the level of responsibilities of the principal, and can lead to tensions between the principal and parent governors. Greater consideration, therefore, has to be given to capacitating SGBs within deficient socio-economic communities – if the mandate of the South African Schools Act (No. 84 of 1996) is to be fulfilled.

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