Democratisation of education in South Africa: issues of social justice and the voice of learners?
The South African Schools Act No. 84 of 1996 mandates that secondary school learners, who are members of the Representative Council for Learners, should be part of school governance through participation in school governing bodies. But they are often not afforded a full opportunity to participate in crucial decisions by the adult members of governing bodies, directly or indirectly. I explore the participation of learners in school governance by means of a literature review and empirical investigation using a qualitative approach. The findings are presented in terms of the role of learners in the school governing bodies, learners' involvement in decision making and in curriculum issues, and the role of governing bodies in promoting democracy in the school and in the wider South African society. Findings suggested that spaces should be created for learners to participate sufficiently in SGBs in order to allow them to exercise their right to participation, thus engaging fruitfully in deliberations dealing with school governance. This would in turn lead to social justice and there would be a great potential for their voice to be heard. They would in turn engage fruitfully in dialogues as they felt included in debates and decision-making processes. Silencing the voice of learners, implicitly or explicitly, means that the issues of social justice and democracy are not taken into consideration in SGBs.
Keywords: democracy; education; learners; school governance; social justice
South African Journal of Education Vol. 28 (1) 2008: pp. 77-90
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