School fees and parental involvement

Tom Stokes, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Education

THE recent announcement by Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, that government will review its funding policy for no-fee schools, once again raises concerns around parents’ commitment to ensuring that their children’s’ schools run effectively.

Of particular concern are those non-fee-paying schools in poor communities where the basic tools to teach are often under-supplied.

Unfortunately the issue of community involvement is much larger and complex than merely augmenting school finances.

Obviously it makes sense to allow school governing bodies to persuade a greater financial contribution of the parent body despite the school being a non-fee-paying school.   But it is not the amount of money each parent can afford to pay voluntarily and rather the degree to which each parent demonstrates a personal support for the school that really matters.

And this is why Sadtu’s knee-jerk rejection of the Minister’s statement is at odds with best practice of encouraging full parental involvement in all activities of school governance.  In fact, the extent to which parents are committed to supporting a school and its SGB is a prime indicator for academic success of any school.

Last week, KwaZulu-Natal MPP’s visited Umlulama School near Richmond, the scene of ongoing disruption by gangs and family feuds in the community.  Learners have died and teachers and departmental officials fear for their lives on a daily basis.  High level meetings between the province’s Education MEC and the community have had no effect.  The delegation has now proposed that this school, with 900 learners, be closed down and learners bussed to schools that are functional.

We visited another school in Imbali township, Henryville Primary.   This community is just as impoverished but committed to the school.  Here there are excellent teachers, brilliant academic results and a principal who places the success of her school on the support she receives from her community.

These two contrasting environments could not provide more concrete evidence of the fact that when parents and the community are not involved within a school there will ultimately be devastating consequences. The DA therefore supports any intervention from the Minister which encourages more parental involvement.