A Critique of the Democratic Functionality of the School Disciplinary Committee Structures within a South African Rural Setting


  • Rifumuni Nancy Mathebula University of Venda, South Africa
  • Tawanda Runhare University of Venda, South Africa
  • Nylon Marishane University of Pretoria, South Africa




school discipline, duty bearer, school policy, institutional structure, functional democracy


The South Africans Schools Act mandates institutional policy duty bearers such as the school governing bodies (SGBs) and school disciplinary committees (SDCs) through which education stakeholders such as school principals, teachers, parents and learners to democratically formulate and implement school policies. The effectiveness of these bodies in carrying out their responsibilities in most cases is left to speculation. Based on a case study of high schools in a rural district setting in South Africa, this paper reports on the extent to which SDCs are democratically constituted and function in conducting their responsibilities. A qualitative approach was employed to gather data from a purposeful sample of 53 participants at two secondary schools that comprised 10 SGB members, 10 school management team (SMT) members, 9 SDC members, 10 Representative Council of Learners (RCL), 4 class teachers and 10 previously disciplined learners (PDLs). Focus group and individual interviews were the primary data gathering instruments but were complemented by document analysis to cross-check participants’ narratives where necessary. Results indicated that the discharge of the SDC responsibilities was largely undemocratic in both composition and functioning, and therefore unjust in disciplining learners who acted outside school rules. On the basis of our findings, we recommend that the policy duty bearers in school institutional management structures such as the SMT, SGB, RCL and SDC should first be inducted on school policies, roles and responsibilities on assumption of duty.


Received: 28 June 2020 / Accepted: 18 November 2020 / Published: 17 January 2021


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How to Cite

Mathebula, R. N. ., Runhare, T. ., & Marishane, N. . (2021). A Critique of the Democratic Functionality of the School Disciplinary Committee Structures within a South African Rural Setting. Journal of Educational and Social Research, 11(1), 170. https://doi.org/10.36941/jesr-2021-0017