Friday, 26 October 2007

First university mergers and now primary and high scools: be careful minister!

Merger can be good or bad. But this only depends on who you acquire or merge with. Business Day warned that “merger must be carefully weighed”. Whether this was considered by North West Department of Education on The Farm and Rural Schools Strategy or not remains unknown. “Be careful who you get into bed with,” Business Day warned.

Getting into bed is how others would describe mergers and acquisitions especially big companies. Could the same thing be said about primary, secondary and high schools mergers? Maybe it could!

According to The Mail, North West Department of Education proposed to merge the poorly and inefficient and ineffective farm and rural schools. You might have thought that mergers only ended in 2004 when Education Minister, Kadar Asmal slashed tertiary institutions from 36 to 21 – but now I’m convinced it didn’t.

Many schools within the North West Province continue to be more ineffective and inefficient. This could be the result of lack of support that such schools get from their district, regional and provincial offices.

Therefore, it is important that before the provincial department embarks on a “merger”, other alternatives choices should have been explored and exhausted. Providing schools principals and School Governing Bodies (SGBs) with e.g. management skills and support could go along way for the merger success.

Whether the merger of both farm and rural schools in the province will be a success, only its proper implementation will determine that. Moreover, the following factors maybe be taken into consideration by the province when implementing such a merger:

  • continuous and consistent consultation with the relevant stakeholders (parents, teachers, learners and the broader community or society that will be affected by the merger);
  • well-researched disadvantages and advantages of the merger (especially on both students and teachers as some of them might have to be relocated) and
  • what the stakeholders can do to make the merger a success it intends to achieve or attain.

It would be of crucial importance that The Farm and Rural Schools Strategy of the North West Department of Education which makes provision for the merger of ineffective schools “to create bigger and more effective school, which will make an increased resource provisioning possible” – is not and must not be used by some school authorities to gain power over others as has been the case with a merger between University of North West and Potchefstroom University now known as North West University.

Since the merger between the two universities in 2004 there’s been a lot of changes and “centralization of power” going on. Mafikeng campus has lost a lot of lectures due to the dissatisfaction they have experienced since the merger. The campus continues to lose its academic employees to its competitors, e.g. Unisa.

Therefore, if the North West Department of Education is not very careful and considerate of the implications of the merger between the farm and rural schools – this could end up being a disaster and leaving poor students being the most affected “victims of circumstances.”

Merger implications are likely to drive “inspiring” teachers and lecturers away from the profession as has been the case with North West University.

Depending how merger or aquisition as a strategy is used by organizations - it will only depend on its proper planning implementation to be a success and attain the set goals.

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