Reference: Published by Staff Writer (BusinessTech), 12 Jun 2023
In order to move the laws forward, the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill’s portfolio committee in Parliament said it has finished all public consultations and will now process the comments received.
The bill’s controversial modifications to South Africa’s educational system have been the subject of months of public input gathering by the committee. These changes will have repercussions for parents, educators, and governing bodies alike.
In general, the measure seeks to make the following changes:
- Making grade R—rather than grade 1, as it is now—the new required school starting age.
- Requiring homeschooled students to enroll in this kind of education.
- Punishing parents who fail to make sure their kids are in school with fines or up to a year in jail.
- Requiring greater transparency from school governing bodies about financial interests, especially those involving spouses and other family members.
- Preventing teachers from doing business with the state or serving as a director of a company doing business with the state.
- Abolishing initiation/hazing rituals and corporal punishment.
- Enabling after-hours alcohol sales in schools.
- Giving control over the required school curricula and language regulations to government department heads.
The Eastern Cape hosted the last consultations, and there, the conflicting opinions heard there largely mirrored those heard elsewhere in the nation.
Language policy, laws governing homeschooling, and the centralization of power over schools inside the government, away from school governing bodies, are a few significant changes that have become discussion points and fodder for opposing viewpoints.
Other ideas, however, have gained widespread support from the populace, either by being wholly rejected or adopted.
The formal integration of pre-schooling, sometimes known as Grade R, into the educational system, is one idea that has received a lot of public support. Even though there are still concerns about money, administration, and ability, parents and communities are generally in favor of making Grade R a requirement for attending school in the nation.
On the other hand, there is no public support for the idea to enable schools to sell alcohol during non-school hours, such as at nighttime activities. Many have questioned how this concept would even function given the current legal system and the desire to keep alcohol as far away from schools as possible, and it has been roundly rejected.
On other suggestions, the Eastern Cape often took the same contradictory stances as the other provinces.
There is support for government backing of school governing bodies, but there are concerns about giving the government too much power, particularly in regards to language regulations.
There are also concerns that more administration and bureaucracy will stifle parent choice in how to educate their children, despite the fact that registering and formalizing homeschooling is vital to ensure that quality and monitoring take place.
Given the conflicting opinions expressed by each province during the consultation period, it is obvious that the measure requires a lot of improvement and is unlikely to pass in its current form.
The committee stated that it will take into account all of the contributions made and go forward with its procedures to review the bill now that the public involvement process has been completed.
The statement read, “We will now compile a comprehensive report on all the public participation processes, including the oral presentations made by organizations and the oral and written submissions made during the provincial hearings.”
“We are pleased with the caliber of the submissions, and we are confident that they will direct the committee as it considers the bill,” the statement continued.
Similar to the stakeholder consultations and presentations in 2022, the public’s feedback will be collated and presented. The ideas that different stakeholders and industry organisations rejected, approved, or just partially accepted were fully documented in this assessment.
You can read the entire analysis of this feedback here: These rules are being adopted and rejected, and they will result in significant changes for South African schools.