Action SA wants a single education department

ActionSA wants Parliament to stop the BELA Bill in its current form. Picture: Zolani Sinxo

ActionSA wants Parliament to stop the BELA Bill in its current form. Picture: Zolani Sinxo

Published Jan 29, 2024


Cape Town - ActionSA wants the state to go back to its old ways and have a single education department as opposed to the current two departments of basic and higher education. The party was speaking outside Parliament during its picket against the Basic Education Law Amendment (Bela) Bill.

Among other things, the bill seeks to make education compulsory from Grade R to Grade 12 and criminalise parents or guardians who block children from attending school without a just cause.

The bill also states that the head of the department may, when considering an application, require a delegated official to conduct a pre-registration site visit.

It also provides that the minister of basic education may institute regulations relating to the registration and administration of home education. It also states that a school governing body (SGB) must submit the language policy of any public school and any amendment thereof to the head of department for approval.

Angela Sobey, ActionSA’s national executive member, said her party’s main objections to the bill relate to the inappropriate power and authority the bill would give to the Department of Education and the minister of Education.

“Our education system is being used by the ruling party as a political tool to win the favour of trade unions and ensure that young people remain reliant on the state for assistance. Therefore, given the exposure of our education system to abuse for political purposes, we believe that the state’s role should be curtailed, not expanded,” said Sobey.

On compulsory education from Grade R to Grade 12, ActionSA believes that Grade R attendance should be accompanied by interventions that expand true access to education.

“In its current form, the bill is also not clear on the alignment of the Grade R curriculum with the rest of the basic education curriculum and is also unclear about the age of entering Grade R, which must be clarified before adoption. Crucially, the true financial cost and fiscal trade-offs of incorporating Grade R into basic education must be established before the adoption of the bill,” said Sobey.

She said the Bela Bill’s proposed transfer of authority for setting school language policy from SGBs to the Department of Basic Education (DBE) is a cause for concern.

“The department lacks the capacity to act in the best interests of all learners across school districts. Instead, we propose clear guidelines as an oversight mechanism to ensure SGBs language policy decisions align with the best interests of every South African learner.”

ActionSA has also called for the merging of the Departments of Basic and Higher Education and Training into a single Department of Education, “to improve alignment of educational outcomes across the educational lifespan,” said Sobey.

Public comments for the bill close on January 31.

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Cape Argus