The Basic Education Portfolio Committee has adopted the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill after six members voted for its adoption, while the DA, African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) and FF Plus voted against it.
Some of the proposals adopted in the bill include making Grade R the new compulsory school-starting age, penalties for parents who do not ensure that their children are in school and confirmation that corporal punishment is no longer allowed at schools with penalties for those found guilty of such offences.
Committee chairperson, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, said the proposed amendments were to align the bill with developments in the education landscape and to ensure that systems of learning were put in place in a manner that gave effect to the right to basic education as enshrined in the Constitution.
“In some instances, all members of the committee agreed that certain proposed amendments did not belong in the bill and ensured that they were removed, whereas in other instances the committee vigorously debated clauses which saw the majority of members of the committee agreeing to retention of such clauses. This is all to ensure that we better the education landscape of the next generation,” she said.
EFF MP Ringo Madlingozi said his party supported the bill.
“The EFF is in support of the amendment to the South African Schools Act, which seeks to make education compulsory from Grade R to 12 and the criminalisation of anyone who blocks children from attending schools without a just cause.
“We particularly supported the clause that emphasised the need for the department to intervene in ensuring that school governing bodies do not discriminate against learners when developing admission policies,” he said.
DA spokesperson on basic Education Baxolile Nodada said the party rejected the bill in its current form.
“Some provisions we completely do not support from a principle perspective, legislative perspective and a policy perspective.”
“The DA supports educational reform, especially given that the current state of the basic education system is completely broken at the hands of the state. Instead of addressing overcrowding, curriculum failures, dropout rates, unsafe environments in schools, unsanitary education facilities, poor quality teaching and lack of resources, the bill rather focuses on centralising power into the hands of the state,” he said.
ACDP’s Marie Sukers also rejected the bill.
“We reject the bill because the ACDP advances and advocates for parental rights and opposes a state-controlled education. It is the primary responsibility and rights of a parent to decide on the education of their children, whether poor or rich, whether urban or rural. Education should be provided where the child resides, where possible as this is optimal,” she said.