The residents of greater uMgungundlovu District Municipality have cautioned against a clause of the Basic Education Laws Amendment (Bela) Bill which proposes a process to be followed in the merger of small and non-viable public schools.
The bill was mostly rejected by residents who highlighted that the merger of schools took away the right of learners to quality for education from schools closer to where they live.
Concerned residents and parents spoke out against the bill during the second of three public hearings held by the portfolio committee on basic education at the Grange Community Hall in Pietermaritzburg recently.
The participants pointed out the inherent risk posed by transporting young children to schools further away as a result of the merger, and they cited many fatal accidents that involved learner transport previously.
They argued that instead of closing schools with low numbers of learners, the Department of Basic Education should provide support to those schools.
In addition, the concerned groups said the closure of non-viable schools and over-regulation of home-schooling made a minimal contribution in enhancing public education system and had a potential of repelling skilled teachers from the basic education sector.
Meanwhile, there was a rejection of Clause 37 with home-schooling parents arguing that the proposals made sought to usurp the natural power of parents to make decisions about their children.
Furthermore, some parents raised security concerns that the implementation of clauses which proposed assessment by a competent assessor and site visits, would, according to them, expose families to criminal elements and promote crime. They called for alternative measures to ensure accountability within the home-schooling system.
In calling for the complete removal of the clause, they said in their view the home-schooling environment was properly regulated in the Children’s Act.
Participants who supported the bill argued that the regulation of home-schooling as proposed by the bill, would ensure equity within the public schooling sphere and prevent a two-tier system within the environment.
Most of those present at the hearings, rejected the sale of alcohol in schools as, according to them, it had a potential of sending a wrong message of the promotion of substance abuse in a country struggling with that problem.
Some added that there was a potential risk in Clause 14, saying that as it stood, it would drive away people with potential from availing themselves as members of the School Governing Body as they would be required, in terms of that clause, to submit their financial interests.
The committee will today conclude the KwaZulu-Natal leg of hearings with a session at the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality.
Details of the hearings are:
Date: Sunday, May 14, 2023
Venue: Pinetown Civic Centre (60 Kings Rd, New Germany, Pinetown, 3620)