Reference: Published by Luke Fraser (BusinessTech), 21 August 2023
The Basic Education Portfolio Committee has completed its deliberations on the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, and a new amended Bill will be released soon.
Members of the public have previously made oral contributions on the Bill, which seeks to modify the South African Schools Act (SASA) of 1996 and the Employment of Educators Act (EEA) of 1998.
The first Bill sought to make the following changes:
- Making grade R, rather than grade 1, the new compulsory school beginning age.
- Forcing homeschooled students to enroll in this form of school.
- Parents who fail to ensure that their child or children attend school face fines or jail sentence of up to a year.
- Holding school boards more accountable for financial interest disclosures, especially those involving spouses and family members.
- Educators are prohibited from doing business with the state or serving on the boards of public or private companies that do business with the state.
- Elimination of corporal punishment and initiation/hazing rituals.
- Permitting schools to sell alcohol after hours.
- Giving heads of government departments control over language rules and curriculums that schools must follow.
“In some cases, members agreed that certain provisions should not be included in the Bill.” In some cases, we vehemently argued certain provisions, while in others, the DBE requested that clauses be eliminated before we began debates on them. This demonstrates a Parliament that listens to the people.” Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, Chairperson of the Committee
During the public consultation process, citizens from across the country voiced diverse feelings about the proposed Bill.
Despite concerns regarding financing, administration, and ability, there has been widespread support for making Grade R the mandatory start of the schooling system.
However, the sale of alcohol on school grounds during after-school gatherings gained almost no public support. Given the current legal framework and the desire for no booze on school grounds, the plan was generally rejected.
According to Wynand Boshoff of the FF Plus, following the public involvement process, the rules allowing for the sale of alcohol on school grounds as well as the mandatory declaration of interests by every member of a school governing body have been repealed.
However, there were disagreements in legislatures about provisions granting provincial ministries the authority to establish a school’s language and admittance procedures, as well as the roles of home schools.
“During the debate over these clauses, the ANC and EFF acted as if they were in the same caucus.” The centralizing element of it is their cup of tea, but the FF Plus, ACDP, and DA have always opposed it,” Boshoff explained.
“(James) Ndlebe (the Director of School Governance in the Department of Basic Education) insisted on extensive consultations before making any decisions.” He claimed that school governing bodies would lose their authority and stated that these measures simply ensure that Constitutional Court rulings become law.”
“The FF Plus will exhaust all parliamentary options to prevent this Bill from becoming law.” Extra-parliamentary measures will be taken only if all other options fail.”