Cape Town – The National Assembly has approved the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, aimed at addressing challenges in the country’s education system.
The bill, passed on Thursday, comprises 56 clauses covering various aspects, including the introduction of Grade R, learner attendance, the Code of Conduct for learners, home schooling, school rationalisation, abolishing corporal punishment and initiations, language policies, admission policies, and criminalising disruptions in schools.
Addressing the media on Sunday, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said that the bill’s goal is to improve access to education and create child-friendly learning environments in line with international treaties.
“The country cannot fold its arms and watch parents using children at traffic light as beggars instead of sending them to school. The country cannot afford to have children working on farms or roaming the streets nor allow adults to use children as pawns for their service delivery protests at the expense of the children’s education,” she said.
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She reiterated that the authority of School Governing Bodies (SGBs) remained intact and was not being diminished in any way.
“The fact that language and admission policies were solely determined and adjudicated by SGBs with veto powers without checks and balances led to the abuse of such powers when some schools excluded learners in those schools using discriminatory practices such admitting learners according to race, ability of parents to pay school fees, academic performance and sporting abilities.
“In reality, the BELA Bill aspires to harmonise the powers of the SGB with the directives of the relevant provincial Head of Department (HOD).
“While the SGB is initially tasked with setting a school’s language policy, the Bill emphasises that this authority is not unequivocal. It ascertains that such policies are adaptable, inclusive and congruent with the constitutional right to basic education,” Motshekga said.
Compiled by Betha Madhomu