Public participation for Bela Bill comes to Free State, all those concerned urged to attend

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Published Mar 2, 2023


The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education will be moving on to the Free State for its public participation process on the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill.

The committee is calling on all those interested individuals and organisations to contribute to the law-making process by attending the hearings and sharing their views.

The Bill proposes to amend the South African Schools Act (SASA) of 1996 and the Employment of Educators Act (EEA) of 1998. The BELA Bill aims to make a host of changes to schools in South Africa, including controversial proposals such as giving the government the final say over language policies at schools and allowing schools to sell alcohol at after-hours and non-school related activities.

Some of the key amendments that the Bill aims to make include:

– Making grade R the new compulsory school starting age, as opposed to grade 1, as is currently the case.

– Forcing home-schooled learners to be registered for this type of schooling.

– Criminalising parents who do not ensure their child or children are in school, with fines or jail time up to 12 months.

– Holding school governing bodies more accountable for disclosures of financial interests – including those related to their spouses and family members.

– Prohibiting educators from conducting business with the state or being a director of public or private companies conducting business with the state.

– Abolishing corporal punishment and initiation/hazing practices.

– Allowing schools to sell alcohol outside of school hours.

– Giving government department heads power over language policies and the curriculums a school must adopt.

The committee, last week, held hearings in Limpopo where a majority of participants supported the Bill although they rejected certain clauses. One of the clauses that were rejected in Limpopo was the definition of corporal punishment. The clause was rejected on grounds that it doesn’t ensure the protection of teachers.

Also, there was a fear that the requirement for members of School Governing Bodies (SGBs) to declare financial interests would discourage parents from availing themselves to participate in the SGBs. A clause that allows schools to sell alcohol on school premises after hours was also rejected at all the districts where public hearings on Bela Bill took place.

Those opposed the Bill expressed concerns that the over-regulation of home-schooling does not take into consideration the needs of the learner. Participants at public hearings highlighted a concern on centralisation of power in the Office of the Head of Department of the Department of Basic Education. They argued that it would be detrimental to the system and would cause unnecessary delays in decision-making.

Details of Public Hearings in Free State

Day 1

Date: Friday, 03 March 2023

Venue: Phuthaditjhaba Multi-Purpose centre

Time: 14:30

Day 2

Date: Saturday, 04 March 2023

Venue: Koffiefontein Multi-Purpose Centre

Time: 14:30

Day 3

Date: Sunday, 05 March 2023

Venue: Simon Sefuthi Community Hall

Time: 14:30