Reference: Published by Staff Writer (BusinessTech), 18 September 2023
Following public discussions, the Basic Educational Laws Amendment Bill (BELA) has come under intense examination. While certain rules have been modified, many modifications to schools, especially home schools in South Africa, are still in the works.
The BELA bill proposes to make significant changes to schools across the country by decreasing the power of school governing bodies, giving the government final say on language rules, and requiring homeschooled students to register.
Some consultation respondents advocated for the removal of the latter section entirely, as well as additional consultation with key stakeholders to accommodate the needs of the homeschooling sector.
Homeschooling advocates also contended that the Bill’s provisions, such as the appointment of an independent assessor, were intended to raise the cost of homeschooling, preventing parents from opting for it.
Concerns raised about the Bill included the claim that imposing an application process for homeschooling took away parents’ rights to make decisions for their children, while others claimed that the Bill does not take into account the unique needs of individual learners and that it seeks to impose a Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement on people, undermining their choice of different curriculums.
However, in an interview with eNCA, Matakanye Matakanya, General Secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, stated that the Department of Basic Education is obligated and within its rights to oversee children’s education, whether in schools or at home.
“Homeschooling is an issue. The DBE must be aware of what and how these children are being taught at home.
“The department has the responsibility to provide education through an accepted curriculum,” Matakanya explained.
He also stated that the department has the right to access and know the qualifications of those who teach children at home, and that some people are not permitted to deal with children at a standard level of education.
“Those who oppose this section of the Bill are concerned with their comfort,” he continued, “but the DBE is not concerned with the comfort of the individual; it is concerned with the quality of education of the child.”
This means that parents or educators who homeschool their children must still submit an assessment report to the department at the end of each term (phase), with the assistance of an independent assessor, to ensure the child meets the learning requirements established by the DBE of a student in the relevant grade.
A minor triumph for homeschoolers is that the provision requiring an independent assessor to visit the homes and properties of homeschooling children has been removed from the Bill. Homeschooled students, on the other hand, must be registered.
Other significant changes proposed by the Bill include:
- Making grade R the new compulsory school beginning age, rather than grade 1, as it is now.
- Parents who fail to ensure that their child or children attend school face fines or jail term of up to 12 months.
- When applying, parents and students must provide specific documentation.
- Making school boards more accountable for disclosing financial interests, including those of their spouses and family members.
- Educators are prohibited from doing business with the state or serving as directors of public or private companies that do business with the state.
- Getting rid of corporal punishment and initiation/hazing rituals.
The committee is anticipated to reconvene this week to finalize the Bill before referring it to the National Assembly for debate and consideration.