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Last month of BELA Bill public hearings – Make your voices heard!


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Last month of BELA Bill public hearings – Make your voices heard!

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4th March 2024


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Today marks one month to go of public hearings for the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, and it is imperative that we continue to make our voices heard against this regressive legislation.

The DA has stood fervently against the Bill from its introduction in the National Assembly. As the Bill now sits in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and is undergoing further public hearings, we must continue to voice our objections per the democratic process.


The DA is against the BELA Bill for the following reasons:

Admission Policies
The Bill will disempower school governing bodies (SGBs) from determining school admission policies and centralise this responsibility to Heads of Provincial Departments (HODs). This will create large administrative burdens, where provincial departments must approve the admission policies of each school. Not only will this prove to be cumbersome, with many provincial departments already dysfunctional, but it will also give HODs excessive powers over schools. Provincial powers on schools are well accommodated in the Schools Act.


Language Policies
To further disempower SGBs, the Bill will also centralise school language policies to HODs. This will disenfranchise mother tongue education, which is constitutionally recognised in Section 29(2) of our Constitution. DBE seeks to return our country to Government deciding languages of learning.

Centralisation of Power
In addition to deciding how SGBs operate, the Bill seeks to decide how they are elected.
Provincial Departments will have excessive veto authority on local school decisions, as well as shorter appeal periods. HODs will have unchecked authorities, which is both legally flawed and detrimental to education outcomes.

Regulations on Homeschooling
The Bill also seeks to regulate homeschooling and gives the Minister wide-ranging powers to do so, despite failing to properly engage with the sector and understand their needs.

Unfunded, mandatory Grade R
The Bill mandates Grade R for all learners, without allocating the necessary funding and resources. Mandatory Grade R will cost the Department of Basic Education (DBE) roughly R12 billion, which it currently does not have funding towards. This will entail that funds from other programmes, such as the Learner Transport and National School Nutrition Programmes (NSNP), which are already underfunded, will be cut and continue to struggle to deliver services. The DA supports the wider inclusion of Grade R to learners; but this must be fully accounted for to ensure that it does not affect other, crucial programmes.

Furthermore, the Bill fails to adequately accommodate blended and online learning. It does not provide appropriate mechanisms for learner registrations, inspections of premises, and assessments. Despite the country’s experience during the Covid-19 pandemic, DBE has failed to learn how to integrate both in-person and online learning.

In stark contrast to the BELA Bill, the DA has workable, evidence-based proposals to improve basic learning. This includes:

  • Ensuring that learners receive 210 full teaching days, including two hours of readings and writing, as well as an hour of maths each day.
  • Improving access to and quality of Grade R , where the DA will integrate Grade R with the necessary resources and funding for schools.
  • Improving STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) to ensure that learners are globally competitive and aligned.
  • Furthering internet access for schools for multifaceted learning.
  • Defending the right to mother tongue education, which is not only constitutionally recognised but also shown to improve learner comprehension.
  • Testing teacher competence and ensuring quality teacher training.
  • Tailor-making interventions for schools, specific to core issues.
  • Reducing dropout rates to ensure that each child receives basic education in a diversified curriculum that will allow them to acquire skills to participate in the economy.
  • ⁠Exploring alternative building models to eradicate dangerous infrastructure and build more classrooms and schools faster.

Should the BELA Bill become law, the DA will not hesitate and proceed with court action, based on Constitutional violations and violation of the Schools Act mainly. We encourage the public to voice its objections during public hearings, as well as in our coming national and provincial elections on 29 May 2024.

The current government has failed our education system and voting them out is our only option for the long-term future of our children. We must choose wisely for the current generation and for those to come.

Issued by the Democratic Alliance


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