The residents of the Cape Winelands District Municipality have called for the Basic Education Laws Amendment (Bela) Bill to include a clear clause that would assure them that they would not be compelled to use the public school’s curriculum for home-schooling.
In addition, they also told the portfolio committee on basic education that bringing in an independent assessor to evaluate the progress of home-schooled children was a “waste of time and financial resources”, making it inaccessible to low-income families.
The residents told the committee that it needs to ensure the freedom of the curriculum against what they describe as draconian regulations proposed by the bill.
These views were shared by the residents who included parents of learners and community-based organisations during the public hearings on the Bela Bill at Montana Community Hall in Wolsely, in the Western Cape, at the weekend.
With a majority rejecting the bill, it was emphasised that children were the responsibility of the parents and not the state. They said that parents should be trusted to act in the best interest of their children, something which, according to some participants, was lacking in the Bela Bill.
They further argued that the bill currently sought to usurp this responsibility and would interfere with parents’ and children’s rights that were enshrined in the Constitution. They further argued that the drafters of the Bill did not do enough research nor a socio-economic impact assessment on the impact of the bill on the education system.
They told the department to go back to the drawing board, engage parents and learners within the environment and draft a correct clause for the sector.
Clause 16 of the bill, which speaks about the central procurement of identified learning and teaching material for public schools, was identified as a risk factor primarily because of the current irregularities in procurement policies in government departments and state-owned entities. Also, some raised the lack of capacity within many provincial education departments to deliver the required material on time.
There were some who supported certain aspects of the bill, primarily the uniform and national measurement governing the elections of the school governing bodies (SGBs) as it would ensure uniformity and ensure fairness in processes. Meanwhile, there were divergent views on why some participants supported the clause on compulsory schooling from Grade R.
Some suggested that the inclusion was a necessary step for Early Childhood Development while others argued that Grade R teachers will benefit directly as they would receive the benefits of mainstream teachers which would improve their quality of life.
Those who supported the bill argued that its intention was transformative in nature, especially the clause on language and admission policies, but argued that children coming from the historically disadvantaged backgrounds were denied access to schools that were popularly referred to as “Model C” schools by language and admission policies.
They said that the office of the HOD together with the SGB must determine a school’s language and admission policy. Some also argued for a clause to be inserted in the bill that would prevent contradictions between the HOD and SGB on language and admission policies.