The establishment of school governing bodies represents a significant decentralisation
of power in the South African school system. The South African Schools Act (Act 84 of 1996) plays an important role in encouraging the principle of partnership in and mutual responsibility for education. With the institution of school governing bodies (SGBs), SASA was aimed to give effect to the principle of the democratisation of schooling by affording meaningful power over their schools to the school-level stakeholders including the governors serving on SGBs. While such decentralisation could well be expected to mean an increase
in democratic participation in the governance of schools, this is not necessarily the case. The picture that emerges from the analysis made in this article is that of the state encouraging participation but cautioning against too much involvement and even taking steps to limit the involvement and powers of stakeholders in the appointment of staff. Governors may well view what has happened since 1994 as a promise first fulfilled but later disappointed and frustrated.