DA encourages individuals across EC to make their voices heard at BELA Bill hearings

DA encourages individuals across EC to make their voices heard at BELA Bill hearings

The Democratic Alliance (DA) encourages individuals across the Eastern Cape to make their voices heard at the upcoming Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill hearings, which start next week.

There has been a widespread public outcry against the most draconian elements of this Bill, including the fact that it will remove the powers of school governing bodies (SGBs) to make decisions about language and admissions policies for their schools.

Download BELA Bill Hearing dates

The DA believes the BELA Bill will give the provincial department head far too much power in determining language and admissions policies, while simultaneously suppressing a local community’s ability to oppose these changes made within their school.

This does not mean the DA is against mother-tongue education. Far from it, the DA vigorously defends and seeks to extend that right where parents wish to exercise it, whether in Afrikaans, Xhosa, Venda or any other language.

Schools and communities must keep the power to decide what’s best for their children. The Department should only intervene if there is evidence that a school uses a language policy to discriminate against learners.

Other concerns include that the Bill allows the Provincial Head of a Department to use the BELA Bill to dissolve an SGB, and the school will have only two weeks to appeal. The Bill also seeks to regulate the homeschooling sector yet fails to address the unique challenges that this sector faces adequately.

While we support the intention of making Grade R mandatory, there are serious practical concerns surrounding whether the schooling system will be able to cope with the influx in student demand.

There will be a need for significant financial investment to expand Grade R classroom capacity and to employ additional teaching staff across the country. The government must first implement proper plans so that the cost of implementing this provision is not overly burdensome on our already constrained fiscus.

The government needs to listen to the people. Parliament has received more than 18,000 written comments. A third have already been analysed, and 89% of those want the BELA Bill ultimately rejected, while 6% object to some parts of the Bill. Only 35 submissions analysed to date support the Bill.

The BELA Bill, in its current form, allows the department to centralise and abuse its powers, discriminate against learners, and undermine the right to mother-tongue education.

The DA will continue to fight for the rights of parents to have a say in their children’s education. We have a plan to Rescue the Eastern Cape and South Africa.