Solidarity submits comments on Bela Bill
15 June 2022
Solidarity today submitted its comments on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (the Bela Bill).
According to Solidarity, the Bela Bill will have a major impact on schools’ independence. If this bill is accepted into law, Solidarity argues, governing bodies will cede almost all their powers to the state, especially with regard to learner admission and language.
“The intention of the state is clearly to centralise the education system. The implementation of this amendment bill will have tragic consequences for education communities and the children receiving their education at public schools. Undoubtedly this will ultimately also affect the quality of education,” said Johnell van Vollenhoven, policy analyst at the Solidarity Research Institute.
“The government has proven itself to be incompetent in that it is not fulfilling its obligations by building enough schools or making resources and support available to schools. Instead of fulfilling these responsibilities, the government wants to deprive parents and governing bodies of their rights in order to exercise more control over schools so that functional schools can be hijacked.”
Solidarity argues that in practice, the acceptance of the Bela Bill will mean that public schools will go back to becoming state schools again, where a community will have almost no insight into the teaching and management of its school or its children.
“This proposed legislation is in direct conflict with the objectives of South Africa's democracy. The intention of the Constitution is precisely that public schools should function with greater autonomy and that communities should take responsibility for the management of these schools,” Van Vollenhoven explained.
In its comments, Solidarity further argues that channels for more robust independence of schools should be investigated and granted.
“Financially competent and academically strong schools, where the school’s community is actively involved, can relieve the department of a burden by becoming independent, which will enable the various education departments to focus their resources on schools that may need more guidance and assistance,” Van Vollenhoven said.
According to Solidarity, the submission of its comments is only the beginning of a huge battle lying ahead, and although the organisation will participate in all other public participation processes, it will not hesitate to approach the courts if the government tried to steamroller the legislation through Parliament without paying proper attention to the outcomes of the public participation process
“We will not stand by while the Department of Basic Education turns public schools into state schools. We will participate fully in every available process and event and even thereafter, if necessary. We will not give up on the education of our children for the sake of the ideology of politicians. We will stand firm and at all costs protect our schools and teachers from the power-hungry obsession of the state. In South Africa we need less state in our schools, not more,” Van Vollenhoven concluded.
To study Solidarity’s full comments, click here.
Issued by Johnell van Vollenhoven on behalf of Solidarity, 15 June 2022