Monday 22 April

SECTION27 welcomes the opportunity to make submissions on the latest version of the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (2023 BELA) in the National Council of Provinces’ (NCOP) process, where the NCOP will consider an amended version of the Bill. SECTION27 is participating in this process and has shared written submissions with all nine provincial legislatures.

The 2023 BELA was passed by the National Assembly on 26 October 2023 with some changes made by the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education. The Portfolio Committee amended the previous Bill (2022 BELA) based on recommendations made by the public and civil society through public engagement platforms. The 2023 BELA has since been handed over to the NCOP who will be holding their own public engagement processes on the recent iteration of the BELA.

SECTION27 has commented on the newest changes to the 2023 BELA and, in particular, welcomes the definition of corporal punishment now included therein, and the penalisation of those educators found guilty of committing this offence.

We also welcome the involvement of the Heads of the Departments (HoDs) of Education on the provincial level in reviewing school policies such as school admission policies. This oversight will prevent school governing bodies from implementing potentially discriminatory policies that do not align with the needs and rights of all South African learners. However, we are concerned that HoDs will no longer be required to submit written reasons for their decisions on approving a language or admissions policy. This omission seems strange, as the requirement to submit written reasons was included in the 2022 BELA.

Similarly, SECTION27 is concerned that Ministers of Executive Councils (MECs) are also no longer required to submit reasons for their decisions to merge schools. This requirement was also included in the 2022 BELA but has now been removed. The removal of these automatic requirements, which are present in other unrelated sections of the 2023 BELA, may undermine the values of transparency and accountability. However, the HoD and MEC would be obliged to provide reasons for their decisions if this is requested in terms of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act.

SECTION27 also welcomes the extension of compulsory schooling to Grade R, as early introduction to education has been shown to have numerous benefits for children, including long-term educational outcomes.

Finally, we are concerned that the 2023 BELA no longer has an explicit prohibition on alcohol on school grounds. The 2022 BELA included a prohibition on alcohol with a qualification that allowed schools to sell alcohol on-site under certain circumstance with the permission of HoDs. This qualification was rightly challenged and removed from the 2022 BELA by the Portfolio Committee. However, it appears that the explicit general prohibition on alcohol has also been removed.  The lack of a clear rationale for removing the general prohibition is concerning. Underage drinking is an urgent problem facing schools and the basic education sector. It is one of the reasons why the Portfolio Committee decided to remove the qualification from the 2022 BELA, which makes the absence of the explicit general prohibition on alcohol in the 2023 BELA even more confusing.

These concerns can be found in SECTION27’s updated submission on BELA along with our concerns that have remained in the 2022 BELA.

SECTION27 acknowledges that the BELA Bill is a concerted attempt to address systemic issues in our schooling system and aims to create a more equitable and inclusive basic education sector. While it may not be perfect, it is a long-awaited step in achieving a transformative education system.

As the National Council of Provinces seeks to finalise the public participation process by the end of February 2024, it is crucial that South Africans become acquainted with a Bill that has the potential to bring long-awaited change to the basic education sector.

*The European Union funding supports SECTION27 and the Centre for Child Law’s work in enhancing accountability in health and education in South Africa.

For media queries contact:

Pearl Nicodemus | nicodemus@section27.org.za | 082 298 2636


3 Comments

E Botha · February 29, 2024 at 7:00 am

Against the Bella bill

Bronwyn · March 5, 2024 at 9:46 am

This country is going from bad to worse..The whole system is messed up and causing so much confusion. If Cyril knows what’s good for him he better not sign this Bela Bill!

Sebakeng Kabi · March 8, 2024 at 8:56 am

Totally against the bill . I am home schooling and would appreciate no interference from the government . As a parent I should have a right to choose what I teach my child and not the government

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