Parliament tries to hide that majority of submissions reject BELA Bill

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

Please find attached a soundbite by Baxolile ‘Bax’ Nodada MP.

According to an analysis by Parliament that was presented to the parliamentary portfolio committee on basic education today, “… most of the submissions were not in support of the [BELA] bill based on the rejection of clause 4, clause 5, clause 14, clause 16 and clause 37. Overwhelmingly email submissions rejected clause 37 on home education”.

The DA and other opposition parties have continued to raise concerns not only regarding the content and clauses of the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, but also the seeming disregard for parliamentary processes and true public participation.

It was due to the DA’s insistence that Parliament is guided by the public and that all submissions be analysed and represented, that the committee finally agreed that thousands of previously unanalysed emails be processed and presented in a qualitative and quantitative manner.

This has not been done. Apart from the vague indication that the majority of the public rejects the BELA Bill, the committee still does not know how many people rejected the Bill. Previous versions of the consolidated report, however, tabled these numbers when they wrongly indicated support for the Bill.

The DA will continue to oppose the BELA Bill as it seeks to centralise power at the expense of communities and school governing bodies (SGBs) who wishes to continue implementing admission and language policies that will benefit their learners. The Bill also fails to regulate online and blended learning and have failed to take the “overwhelming” number of submissions rejecting the home-schooling clause into account.

Nor does it address the severe systemic issues degrading quality education in the country: overcrowding, dangerous and unsanitary infrastructure, dropouts, curriculum overload, failure to ensure strong literacy and numeracy foundations, quality teaching.

In May this year it was revealed at a Joint Standing Committee on Financial Management of Parliament meeting that the average cost of public hearings are R300 000 per public hearing per district – a whopping R900 000 per province. Given this cost and the fact that Parliament botched the hearings in Mpumalanga, it is shocking that the committee would so brazenly waste this money by disregarding public submissions.

And despite questions regarding the various petitions that were submitted on the Bill, there is still not clarity on whether they were regarded and what ultimately happened to them.

Furthermore, despite this majority objection of the BELA bill, the A-list was still pushed through Parliament.

The DA will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that public participation is more than just an expensive, taxpayer funded box-ticking exercise. The DA will not form part of the fruitless and wasteful expenditure of a governing party that do not care about the public they’re meant to serve.