29 Oct 1997

29 October 1997


The Education Laws Amendment Bill makes it possible for public schools
to appoint additional teaching and non-teaching staff, over and above their
approved limit, from funds raised by the schools themselves.

This enables previously-advantaged schools to maintain standards, while
the focus of state funding is shifted towards redressing imbalances in
historically-disadvantaged schools. This implements some of the policy
goals of the South African Schools Act of 1996.

Balancing Equity and Standards

There is a fine balance between the goal of meeting the education needs
of the historically-disadvantaged, and the goal of maintaining the standards
of education previously enjoyed by a racial elite.

The Government has a clear commitment to equity and to redressing the
educational injustices of the past, but is also committed to widening access
to quality education. Yet these commitments have to be met from an education
budget that has not increased.

The Government`s education policy has sought to manage this delicate
balancing act by shifting the focus of state funding towards schools most
in need of redress, while allowing parents at schools in middle-class areas
the option to pay school fees to increase the private funding resources
available to their schools. Under this Bill, school governing bodies will
be allowed to use revenue collected from parents to employ additional teaching
and non-teaching staff. These funds can be used to appoint staff additional
to those already funded by the state.

Preventing A Two-Tier Schools System

There are checks and balances to ensure that individual governing bodies
do not abuse their freedom to employ additional staff. Governing bodies
will not be permitted to raise school fees to such an extent that they
are able to afford considerably better resourced schools than the state
can provide, because this would perpetuate the divisive, two-tier schooling
system that we have inherited from the Apartheid past.

A Draft Policy on Funding Norms and Standards, which was released earlier
this month, goes some way towards defining a single educational standard
for all public schools.

Employment Standards

The Bill ensures that additional teachers who are employed by schools
fall under the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC). This is to prevent
the possible exploitation of teachers on the one hand, and to prevent wealthier
public schools from offering higher salaries in order to poach the best
staff from other public schools.

However, there have been concerns that many schools in poor areas would
not be able to afford the standard conditions of service and could only
employ additional teachers at lower salaries. The Bill therefore allows
individual schools to negotiate for separate working conditions through
the ELRC, or to apply for exemption from the Labour Relations Act through
the ELRC.

According to the Bill, the following rules apply to the employment of
additional staff:

  • they must comply with policy and laws applicable to other staff employed
    in public schools
  • their employment must be in terms of norms and standards determined
    by the Minister
  • teachers must be registered with the South African Council of Educators
  • their employment must be subject to section 195 of the Constitution
  • the criteria for employment must include consideration of equity, redress
    and representivity, as well as the ability of the candidate
  • governing bodies must supply parents with information on the costs
    of the proposed additional staff.

Redeployment of State-Funded Teachers

The redeployment of educator staff is critical in pursuing a policy
of redress, since personnel expenditure accounts for almost 80 per cent
of the education budget. The Bill deals with the tension between the rights
of individual school governing bodies to employ a teacher of their own
choice and the responsibilities of the state as employer to offer alternative
employment to an employee affected by redeployment.

If the redeployment strategy is to go ahead, the state, as employer,
must be empowered to shift teachers from those schools that have too many
teachers, to those schools where there are posts to be filled. The Grove
Primary School case highlighted a weakness in the existing legislation,
and the need to define the rights and responsibilities of school governing
bodies and the state in terms of the new parameters of the public education
system as defined by the South African Schools Act.

According to the Bill, governing bodies in appointing state-funded teaching
posts, will first have to take account of a list of applicants furnished
by state. However, there is discretion for governing bodies to choose from
within that list. The details will be negotiated through the Education
Labour Relations Council.

It is essential that the Minister has the necessary powers to complete
the rationalisation process. The Provincial Education Departments are unable
to redeploy teachers until the legal situation is clarified. This is resulting
in overspending at the rate of R47m per month.

Key Political Messages

  • The Education Laws Amendment Bill is a critical measure for implementing
    our policy of equity and redress of education provision
  • The Bill balances the rights of individual governing bodies to employ
    staff and the responsibilities of the state to implement policy
  • The Bill balances the need to redress the imbalances of the past, with
    the need to maintain and promote the highest standard of education
  • This Bill puts the teacher redeployment strategy back on track, which
    will benefit schools currently suffering from shortages of teaching staff.