Stakeholders reject BELA Bill in NCOP Select Committee

Issued by Delmaine Christians MP – DA NCOP Spokesperson on Education
14 Mar 2024 in News

The DA has carefully considered the submissions made to the Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) by various stakeholders regarding the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, and we share the same reservations on several key aspects of the Bill.

While we acknowledge the need to update legislation to align with developments in the education landscape and uphold the right to basic education enshrined in the Constitution, we are concerned about the potential implications of certain clauses within the proposed amendments.

There appears to be consensus amongst stakeholders in their rejection of the BELA Bill, with a significant number either opposing the Bill outright or expressing partial support while raising significant objections. These objections include a range of critical issues that must be addressed before the Bill can be deemed suitable for implementation.

Of particular concern are the objections raised against the powers vested in the Head of Department (HOD), especially regarding language and admission policies of schools. We believe that any amendments granting excessive authority to HODs could undermine the autonomy of School Governing Bodies (SGBs) and may not serve the best interests of learners and communities.

While there is support for starting school from grade R, concerns exist about government’s ability to fund this initiative adequately. Some stakeholders argue against compulsory attendance at age six, emphasising the importance of considering individual child development and readiness, and calls have been made to align compulsory schooling with inclusive education principles, particularly for children with disabilities.

Furthermore, the objections regarding the regulation of home education and its curriculum, as well as the central procurement of teaching and learning materials, are valid concerns that need careful consideration. The proposed regulations must strike a balance between ensuring quality education and respecting the autonomy of parents and educators.

It is also disconcerting to note the lack of trust expressed by some stakeholders in government’s ability to implement positive changes in the education sector. This sentiment reflects broader concerns about transparency, accountability, and effective governance within the education system.

The objections raised by religious and faith-based organisations regarding potential infringements on religious principles must not be dismissed lightly. Any legislation affecting education must respect the diverse beliefs and values within our society.

While we recognise the importance of legislative updates to improve educational outcomes and ensure the rights of learners, the DA calls for thorough deliberation and careful consideration of stakeholders’ concerns before proceeding with the BELA Bill. We urge government to engage constructively with stakeholders and address the substantive issues raised to ensure that any amendments ultimately serve the best interests of all South African learners.