On a scorching hot Saturday in early October, the Giyani Town Hall played host to a meeting of 200 learners, teachers, principals, members of School Governing Boards and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) activists from the Mopani and Vhembe districts, Limpopo Province.
The meeting was jointly organised by SECTION27, the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB) and Treatment Action Campaign (TAC). The purpose of the meeting was to look at the right to basic education; the roles and responsibilities of SGBs, learners and educators as well as challenges faced by schools in the area and to develop strategies for the way forward.
The meeting had plenary presentations from the NASGB and SECTION27 and then broke into very animated commissions on the rights and responsibilities of SGBs, learners and teachers and principals, and some of the challenges currently being faced.
Challenges cited included issues related to infrastructure, including overcrowding in classrooms (one school has classes of 120 and 180 learners) and poor sanitation; the lack of transport support for learners (one school serves three villages resulting in learners having to walk long distances) and learners taken out of class to assist in cleaning the school.
The lack of clarity regarding the roles and responsibilities of SGBs and the lack of information filtering down to these SGBs also received attention, as did the need to change the culture of learning in South Africa, including the attitude of parents.
The commission on the Role and responsibilities of SGB’s highlighted the importance of organizing – building stronger structures that can raise issues using a united voice to ensure quality education for learners is the province. The need for capacity building was also a key point highlighted by all commissions.
Key resolutions emanating from the workshop include a clear message of ‘hands-off our principals’ in response to reports that principals are being intimidated into not talking to SECTION27 about the delivery of textbooks; and a decision to monitor the 2013 delivery of textbooks very closely.
The establishment of Limpopo Coordinating Committee, composed of SGBs and parents from the Mopani and Vhembe districts, has the function of organizing and creating awareness on critical issues affecting schools in the province. The committee will also encourage parents to take interest in their children’s education and learning environment.
One principal from the Vhembe district had this to say in response to reports of the DBE attempting to silence educators: “I’ve been told by my circuit manager not to talk to you. As long as I’m principal and SECTION27 keeps doing its job I’ll keep talking.”
Other resolutions include making schools safe and running more workshops on SGBs and RCLs so all understand their rights and responsibilities.
The workshop concluded with the formation of a coordinating committee of 18 people (covering the two districts and ten school circuits) to take forward the work laying the foundation for future work with a very positive spirit.