DA raises concerns and vows to fight draconian BELA Bill after conclusion of Eastern Cape hearings

Issued by Baxolile 'Bax' Nodada MP – DA Shadow Minister of Basic Education
14 Jun 2023 in News

The public hearings regarding the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill were concluded in the Eastern Cape this weekend.

As with the other 8 provinces, Eastern Cape participants raised many of the same concerns the DA have with the Bill, particularly the clauses that seek to disempower schools and school governing bodies (SGBs) from determining their own language and admission policies, which could be used to target mother tongue education schools, especially Afrikaans schools.

The DA is also greatly concerned that the clause making Grade R mandatory does not take the severe financial, facility, and staff constraints into consideration. While Grade R is extremely beneficial to learners, the Department of Basic Education does not have the money to ensure that all learners are able to access Grade R should the BELA Bill be signed into law.

The Minister of Basic Education should also not be allowed to prescribe the number of SGB members to serve at public schools for learners with special needs, nor how they’re elected.

Furthermore, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) failed to conduct adequate research and engagement with the homeschooling sector before drafting the clause on homeschooling. And DBE failed to even include blended and online learning in the Bill, despite its rise in popularity during and after the Covid-pandemic.

Communities across the country also raised concerns regarding the selling of liquor on school grounds, the imprisonment of parents for failing to ensure learner school attendance, and the Bill’s failure to address issues of teachers suffering abuse from learners.

The BELA Bill also fails to address the real issues plaguing basic education in South Africa.

Crumbling and dangerous infrastructure, high dropout rates, poor quality of teaching, overcrowded classrooms, as well as the lack of libraries and reading and catch-up targets, are not addressed in the Bill.

The BELA Bill undermines fundamental rights to quality education, and the DA will continue to do everything in our power to fight this draconian Bill.