Representative Council of Learners (RCLs) are established according to the South African Schools Act No. 84 of 1996, Section 11 (a). The Act applies to all the public schools for learners from Grade 8 upwards and this body is the only recognised and legitimate learner body in the school.
Student protests against the introduction of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in local schools in 16 June 1976 gave rise to significant student movements, with growing clarity of political and educational demands. The concept of student representative democracy was rooted in resistance politics. The passing of the South African Schools Act of 1996 represented a turning point in the implementation of policies of the new government with regard to the democratisation and funding of schools including the formation of the new SGBs.
A Representative Council of Learners is elected by learners in public schools from grade 8 – 12, to represent their interests. Every school must elect an RCL, and the RCL must elect two members to the School Governing Body. The RCL is made up of democratically elected representatives of learners and should represent the interests of the learners and consult with them on issues that concern them.
RCL members will become acquainted with their roles and responsibilities towards the learners that they represent. They will be equipped with the practical tools and skills to carry out their tasks efficiently. The following topics will be studied:
- Understanding the world we live in
- The role and key tasks of the RCL
- Developing a programme of action
- Building Leadership skills, such as communication skills, conflict management etc.
To roll-out the RCL Capacity Building Programme, MGSLG adopted the following schema:
- The Hosting of a One-Day Programme Launch Conference (7 June 2014)
- The development of a 4-Day post-conference programme for RCL members and Teacher Liaison Officers (TLOs) - based on the approved curriculum detailed above. The 4-day programme was split over 2 weekends, namely, (26-27 July and 2-3 August 2014)
The programme was delivered in the regular decentralised manner with 15 training venues (one in each district) hosting the training workshops for RTCL members and TLOs.
- A one-day conference for Representative Council of Learners (RCL) was held on 7 May 2014 at the Rhema Bible Church in Randburg. The conference served to launch the 2014/15 RCL Capacity Building Programme and to heighten awareness around the importance of Youth and Learner Leadership Development in advance of the planned workshop Programme. The space created for dialogue at the conference was maximised with elected RCL members freely voicing their opinions on the challenges and successes that they experienced as emerging leaders in the schooling terrain. The conference was well attended with senior officials of the GDE and MGSLG in attendance. The keynote address at the conference was delivered by the Chief of Staff from the Office of the MEC. A total of 1741 RCL members and 384 TLOs attended the conference.
- A primary achievement of the programme has been inauguration of the Youth Leadership Development Programme by the School Governance Directorate within MGSLG. The programme currently being offered has been significantly revised from previous offerings and has been made more relevant and appropriate to the current context that we find ourselves in. It is encouraging to note that more than half of all targeted RCL members (2066 out of 3600) and over a third of all TLOs (232 out of 600) attended the first roll-out of the revised RCL training programme. In general, all key participants reflected positively on the programme content and found the exercise useful. It is encouraging to note that the most significant recommendation made by participants form across the spectrum is about the need to widen the programme to include the participation of teachers, SMT members and SGBs.