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.