Bela Bill ‘a progressive milestone’, says ANC

Grade R will be made compulsory.

Grade R will be made compulsory.

Published May 15, 2024


The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) passed the controversial Basic Education Electoral Amendment (Bela) Bill with some amendments on Tuesday.

The bill deals with admission and language policies to handle diversity at schools as well as governance and administrative challenges facing the institutions, among other things.

The bill makes it compulsory for children to receive early childhood education and also provides for home-based education.

However, the powers to be given to the heads of departments to intervene in language and admission policy at schools has been a contentious issue since the bill was formulated.

Speaking during the tabling of the report on the Bela Bill, chairperson of the Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture select committee, Elleck Nchabeleng, said the legislation was among the most highly contested bills since the dawn of democracy.

“The amendments will be a major breakthrough in ensuring our children are not denied access to education in their areas of residence on the basis of their home language.”

He said the bill formalised home-based education and would strengthen the foundation of basic education.

“The Bela Bill goes a long way in ensuring no child is left behind in terms of access to quality education, hence the South African Schools Act requires constant alignment to changing needs and dynamics of society.”

The report on the Bela Bill said eight provinces supported the amendments made to the bill after the National Assembly referred it to the NCOP for concurrence. Only the Western Cape rejected the amendments.

DA MP Cathlene Labuschagne said they unequivocally expressed their opposition to the bill based on the public participation process in the province.

“The Western Cape has to put the people and South Africans at large first by condemning this legislation for its far-reaching implication on the rights of parents, educators and learners,” she said.

The DA rejected the over-centralisation of powers that stripped parents the rights of their authority over their children’s education.

“The bill’s failure to address pressing issues such as overcrowding, curriculum deficiencies and provision of safe and adequate education facilities make it a distinctive and undemocratic piece of legislation,” Labuschagne said.

“As we stand in opposition of this bill, we remain resolute in our determination to advocate for an education system that upholds local autonomy, safeguards parents’ choices and ensures quality and equitable access to all learners.

“The Western Cape remains committed to pursue education reforms that genuinely empower schools and communities, fostering quality education for all South Africans,” she added.

ANC MP Nokuzola Ndongeni said her party supported the progressive milestone of the adoption of the report on the Bela Bill that sought to enhance the organisational efficiency of basic education.

“The finalisation of the Bela Bill will be a significant milestone in the transformation of education,” Ndongeni said.

She defended the powers given to the heads of departments to intervene in matters of education policy and admission at schools, saying the intervention could be done when certain steps were followed.

When the bill was put to a vote, the Western Cape voted against and the other provinces voted in its favour.

It will now be referred to the National Assembly for consideration on Thursday and, if passed, it will be sent to President Cyril Ramaphosa for assent.

Cape Times