One of the key challenges facing school governing bodies in South Africa is how to maintain school discipline and create an atmosphere which is conducive to effective learning and teaching. It is anticipated that adopting a code of conduct for learners may facilitate the attainment of this goal.
The aim of this study was to investigate the implementation of a code of conduct for learners in rural primary schools in Limpopo province. The investigation involved a case study of two primary schools in the Sekhukhune District. The data collection methods used included interviews and document analyses. The participants in the study comprised members of the school management teams (SMTs) as well as the principal and parent component of the school governing bodies (SGBs).
The findings revealed that, when properly implemented, such a code of conduct is an effective tool in managing the majority of learner behaviour, although it has a limited effect on serious misconduct. The study highlighted a number of challenges involved in the drafting of a code of conduct. These challenges arose primarily as a result of a lack of legislative knowledge on the part of the SGB members, as well as a lack of parental support. Parents are often away working in urban areas while children are cared for by illiterate grandparents and other family members. Additional challenges regarding the implementation of the code of conduct were mainly as a result of the lack of timely departmental support in the case of serious misconduct, peer pressure and socioeconomic factors.
The study recommended that the government should equip parents, SMTs and SGBs with the necessary skills and knowledge relating to educational law through workshops and the establishment of accessible, effective adult basic education centres. When policies are drafted, English should be used in conjunction with the other languages that are spoken by the majority of people in the area concerned, in order to ensure a better understanding of such policies than would otherwise be the case. There has to be better handling of disciplinary hearings and consistency in the implementation of the code of conduct. Teaching and learning should also be improved to minimise the necessity for learner discipline in schools.