Governing bodies and learner discipline: managing rural schools in South Africa through a code of conduct
The South African Schools Act of 1996 provides that school governing bodies (SGBs) should adopt and assist in the enforcement of a learner code of conduct to maintain discipline effectively. This study focuses on the perceptions and experiences of SGBs in managing discipline in rural secondary schools through the design and enforcement of learner codes of conduct. A generic qualitative research paradigm was used to gain insight into the effectiveness of and factors impeding the enforcement of learner codes of conduct in rural secondary schools. For this purpose, data were collected from six secondary schools in the North West Province by means of focus group interviews and analysed according to Tesch’s method of open coding. One of the major findings of the study revealed that many rural school governors still lack the relevant knowledge and skills to design and enforce a learner code of conduct effectively. The literacy levels of the majority of SGB members (parents) make it difficult for them to design and enforce the learner code of conduct, even though the department may have provided training. Furthermore, parent-governors are far removed from the day-to-day operations of the school, and consequently fail to contextualise the seriousness of discipline problems as well as to enforce the learner code of conduct effectively.