Transformation trumps everything. That seems to be the underlying rationale for planned amendments to legislation governing schooling in South Africa.
One of the key proposals is to remove the right of school governing bodies (SGBs) to play a role in the appointment of school principals, deputy principals, and heads of departments. SGBs are currently entitled to make recommendations. However, the proposed amendments provide that the selection and appointment of teachers in senior posts will be "the sole responsibility" of the head of the provincial education department.
Giving the provincial head final authority over the admission of pupils to public schools, as well as the power to approve such schools' language policies, are among the other proposals in the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill, which is open for public comment until 10th November.
According to a memorandum attached to the bill, the vesting of "sole responsibility" for key appointments in the provincial education department is "necessitated by the requirements of transformation". Another reason given is the importance of leadership and management in "turning a school around".
The memorandum says that the appointment of teachers relies to a large extent on the existence of a functional SGB. However, it argues, many public schools, especially in deep rural areas, do not have functional SGBs.
This may be true. But it is no argument for removing the powers of SGBs that do operate effectively, which is the case in a great many public schools. The Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (Fedsas) has labelled the proposed legislation as an attempt by the African National Congress (ANC) to "capture" public schools. The federation, representing more than 2 000 public schools, also argues that the proposals amount to a move away from "public education to state education".