Community urged to participate in SGB’s to influence the interests of Muslim children in public schools

There are many instances where Muslims have built a reputation on SGBs or through building relationships for their contributions, writes an Al Qalam Reporter.

The South African Muslim Network (SAMNET) has urged parents and the Muslim community in general to actively play a role in School Governing Bodies (SGB) in order to shape the educational lives of Muslim children in Government schools.

Dr Faisal Suleman told Al-Qalam in an interview that it was imperative that the Muslim community participate in the elections to be held across South African Public Schools from now till April 30. These elections are legislated to be held every three years at tens of thousands of Public schools across the country.

He pointed out that School Governing Bodies (SGBs) were critical to the functioning and operation of Public schools.

“It is our opinion and that of those we have engaged already, that if we can positively influence school education in SA it will directly benefit all of our children’s future and that of South Africa.

“It is important for Muslims to be active in the civil structure of South Africa. Our legislation and education systems encourage participation of communities in their schools. We need to take advantage of this opportunity, especially now at this critical time that legislation on SGB powers is under review.

“School Governing Bodies have a direct influence on the following, among others, control of financial and operational governance of the school; Appointment of principals, teachers and administrators; Setting of fees; Setting and application of policy; Influence the ethos, values and discipline at the school; Influence on the way the curriculum is interpreted & applied.

“It needs to be noted that the majority of our Muslim students are NOT in Private/Islamic/Majority Muslim schools. In light of this, we need to consider the importance of participation & representation,” he said.

Suleman said when candidates are being proposed by a group in the community, there are a number of factors that should be considered:

“Any level-headed person who can work with a diverse team and add value will benefit the SGB. The SGBs’ and other parents tend to also look to candidates who have beneficial skills like finance, law, education, human resources, building maintenance and fundraising. Candidates need to have sufficient time to participate in SGB meetings, subcommittees or projects. This is often minimal but varies by school (some require more input.)

“Good candidates with the values & understanding of needs of the community who may NOT be Muslim need to be supported. However, we must caution AGAINST this being viewed as an ‘Islamisation’ of education, where candidates’ efforts may take away from the efficient, non-racial, multi-religious & inclusive nature of public education,” he added.

Minorities

Despite the number of Private Islamic schools, we must realise that most Muslim students in SA are in Public Schools. In most cases they are minorities and in less affluent communities, he said.

Suleman said although Muslim candidates on SGB’s cannot enforce a view, they can influence & lodge objections when within the SGB.

“Previous generations made sacrifices and they were involved in the development and administration of schools, even under oppressive and adverse conditions. It is our responsibility to make an effort to give some of our time to ensure the education of all future generations is improved.”

Over the past few years, SAMNET has assisted and come to know of  numerous instances involving students, parents and teachers where there have been uncompromising or even hostile incidents with schools.

Many of these have been with SGBs or principals. In most cases, a visible presence and engaged parent body would have been beneficial. If parents are not involved proactively, it makes mediation more difficult when it is needed.

“There are many instances where Muslims have built a reputation on SGBs or through building relationships for their contributions. Schools have been able to facilitate the reasonable accommodation of Muslims and other communities,” Suleman added.

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