Mar 2012

Better education begins with your vote

Democracy begins at home, with the school governing body elections in March that will give parents the chance to be part of the leadership at learning institutions

School governing body elections ensure the active participation of parents in their children's education.There are more than 24 000 public schools in South Africa, each with a democratically elected School Governing Body (SGB). By participating in the SGB elections in March, parents have the chance to be part of government’s drive to improve learning outcomes and to bring about quality education in our schools. This is your chance as a parent or member of the community to make a difference to our schools.

What is a school governing body?

SGBs are accountable to the school community and are tasked with ensuring that the school runs smoothly and efficiently. As such, SGBs are vital in:

  • improving the quality of education
  • ensuring good governance
  • ensuring that schools serve the interests of the community and meet expectations of parents
  • assisting in spreading the cost of education across users and society and combatting racism, sexism and all other forms of discrimination and intolerance.
What does the SGB do?

SGBs play a key role in developing policies relating to issues such as language, religious instruction, school fees and a code of conduct for learners.

They have to ensure that policies:

  • allow all children to enter the schooling system
  • promote values of non-racialism and equality between boys and girls in school
  • help communities to respect and tolerate all religions and cultures
  • encourage children to speak a range of indigenous languages
  • respect children’s rights and promote non-violent ways of solving problems.
Why should parents get involved in SGBs?

It is every parent’s responsibility to take an interest and have their say in the running of their children’s school to ensure that the school provides the best possible quality of education to all its learners.

Experience has shown that schools where many parents are involved, are often the best performing schools, both academically and socially.

Don’t stand back! Get involved in your child’s schooling and make a difference …

It is your duty as a parent or member of the community to serve in any way you can. Your reward is improved education for our children to give them a better future and contribute towards the strengthening of South African society.

When do elections for SGBs take place?

According to the South African Schools Act, SGBs have to be elected every three years. The next elections are scheduled to take place throughout the month of March 2012. 

Who serve on the SGB?

A school’s SGB is made up of the most important stakeholders.  They include:

  • parents or guardians of learners at the school
  • educators
  • learners in Grade 8 or higher
  • members of staff who are not educators
  • school principals, who are automatic members of the SGB by virtue of their position
  • co-opted members.

The term of office is one year for learners and no more than three years for all other members.

Who is eligible to serve on a school’s SGB?

A person will not be eligible to be a member of the SGB if he or she:

  • is mentally ill and has been declared as such by a competent court
  • is an unrehabilitated insolvent
  • has been convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine for a period exceeding six months, or has not yet served his or her full period of imprisonment
  • no longer falls within the category of members that he or she represented at the time of the election.
Can members of the community who are not parents become members of an SGB?

Yes! The SGB may co-opt members with expertise in areas that may benefit the SGB and the school. Any member of the community who can offer particular skills, creativity, a passion and commitment to quality education, may be co-opted.

The SGB may need someone with fund-raising, marketing or computer skills or even an ex-pupil who is now runs a successful business in the community. It is important to note that co-opted members have no voting rights, but can make a meaningful contribution to their local school.

What is the size of the SGB?

The number of parent members must be one more than the combined total of the other members of a SGB who have voting rights.

Each province has prepared a schedule determining the number of members in each component of the SGB, based on this criterion and on the learner enrolment of the school. This schedule is part of the provincial regulations.

What office bearers must be elected within the SGB?

Office-bearers must include a chairperson, a treasurer and a secretary. These appointments must be made at a registration meeting to be held within 14 days of the election of the SGB. Only a parent member may serve as chairperson of the SGB.

What is an SGB’s term of office?

With the exception of learner members, an SGB member’s term may not exceed three years.

For learner members and office bearers, the term of office is one year. Office bearers may stand for re-election once that one-year term has expired.

How does the election procedure work?

The school’s electoral officer should issue notices of the nomination process and the nomination and election meeting. These notices must contain the date, time and place of the meeting. Notices must be distributed at least 21 days before the meeting. A hard copy of these notices must be handed to every learner at least 14 days before the meeting to give to their parents.

How do I nominate a candidate for the SGB?

A candidate may only be nominated and seconded by a person belonging to the same SGB membership category. A nomination form, completed by the nominator, candidate and seconder must be handed to the electoral officer not more than seven days and not less than 24 hours before the election meeting.

How do I cast my vote?

Voting takes place on ballot papers. Each ballot paper should have the school stamp on it or some other distinguishing feature to prevent tampering.

People who have the right to vote must record their vote secretly and deposit it into the ballot box. Voters may ask for guidance from electoral officers.

What happens next?

After votes are counted, each elected SGB member must be informed of their election in writing. The school principal must convene the first meeting of the SGB within 14 days of the election so that office bearers may be elected. Once they have been elected, the principal must inform the district manager in writing of persons who have been elected.


The SGB and whoever serves on it is accountable to the members of the school community. It must call meetings to inform parents and to ensure that any decisions around fee increases or other important education decisions are democratically supported by the majority of parents.

Once elected, the members of the SGB can arrange meetings at a time that is convenient to both working and non-working parents. 

Let your voice be heard

You can make your voice heard by offering to stand for the elections as a possible SGB member or by nominating the best candidates for the SGB elections and making sure that you vote on election day.

As a member of the community who is passionate about education and South Africa’s future, make your voice heard.

For more information or if you have any enquiries, contact your child's school principal or the district office. You can also contact the Department of Basic Education: 012 357 4277.
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