What are the factors that militate against or facilitate parental involvement in school governance? A comparative case study of two public primary schools in the northern suburbs of PIetermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Apartheid education in South Africa created and maintained deliberate inequalities between schools serving the Indian, Coloured and African communities on one hand and the White population on the other hand. The advent of democracy in South Africa in 1994 addressed a range of issues, one of which was school governance. The South African Schools Act of 1996 was a bold attempt by the government to address issues like school governance. This act created a new school-governance landscape based on a partnership between the state, schools, learners, parents, school staff and the local communities. The aim of this study was to establish reasons why parental involvement is muted in some public schools but more active in other public schools. The participants in the study were parents, school principals and the chairpersons of the school governing bodies of the two schools. The purpose of the study was to listen to differing perspectives on why parents were involved, or not involved, in school governance. The research used both quantitative and qualitative methodology to gather data, and it assumed the form of a comparative case study of the two schools. A survey questionnaire and semi-structured interview were used as data collection techniques. Findings of the study revealed that those parents who were involved in school governance did so because they wanted to be of assistance to both their children, as well as the schools their children attended. In addition, parents who were not involved in school governance cited different reasons for their noninvolvement, ranging from a lack of time, a lack of knowledge and skills, as well as institutional difficulties at the schools their children attend. There was evidence of a conflict between policy and practice in respect of parental involvement in school governance. Policy expected parents to be involved in school governance, and assumed that all parents were familiar with the roles of school governors. Parents, on the other hand, seemed to lack a clear understanding of what school governance entailed, and what the school governance policy expected from them.