FEDSAS Deputy CEO’s research for doctoral thesis makes tangible contribution

22/04/2024 - Fedsas


Social justice for learners is only possible through cooperative governance between school governing bodies on one side and the National Department of Basic Education and provincial education departments on the other. The practical application of this premise is the focus of the doctoral thesis of FEDSAS’s Deputy CEO. Dr Juané van der Merwe’s doctoral degree, completed under the supervision of Prof. Mariette Reyneke, was awarded at the recent autumn graduation ceremony of the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein.


“Juané joined FEDSAS ten years ago and the organisation is privileged to have someone of her expertise, experience and qualifications,” says Dr Jaco Deacon, CEO of FEDSAS. Van der Merwe is the Head of Legal Services at FEDSAS and also serves on the executive committee of the South African Education Law Association.


Van der Merwe says she is confronted on a daily basis with problems that result from conflict and power struggles between governing bodies and education officials. “Although the Constitution places a duty of cooperation on both parties, there are not clear guideline as to what the scope of this duty is for the various parties or how it is supposed to look in the normal run of school governance.”


Her thesis proposes comprehensive guidelines for mechanisms such as meaningful engagement, shared responsibilities and the pursuit of a common outcome, moral and ethical leadership, and accountability. “The concept of ‘cooperation’ is thrown around a lot but when it gets to the point of execution there are endless disputes between governing bodies and provincial education departments as to each party’s sphere of influence and decision-making authority.”


Van der Merwe says many of these disputes end in the court. “Over and above the fact that legal action requires time and money that could have been put to use for the goals of quality education, it also shifts the focus away from learners and their interests.”


Deacon says many of Van der Merwe’s suggestions have already been incorporated by FEDSAS to support members. “Eventually we would like to see that all role-players buy into the guidelines so that it can be formalised as part of school governance.”


Deacon and the Chairperson of FEDSAS’s National Council, Dr Shaun Mellors, congratulated Van der Merwe on her determination as well as her vision and the practical nature of her research.

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