‘Bela is going to turn public schools into state schools’

Henry

Without the authority of governing bodies at public schools in South Africa, these schools will turn into state schools and the quality of education and the state of infrastructure will soon decline dramatically.

This warning is contained in Solidarity’s comments submitted on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (Bela) which is currently being considered by the National Council of Provinces. Solidarity is particularly opposed to the way in which the proposed amendment bill undermines the authority of governing bodies as representatives of the parent community.

According to Johnell Prinsloo, education researcher attached to the Solidarity Research Institute (SNI), the amendment bill seeks to water down the role of governing bodies so that it can be placed, especially in terms of language and access policy, in the hands of the government.

“Until now, thanks to the South African Schools Act, the control of schools has been deliberately placed in the hands of a governing body so that actions are taken in the best interest of the school. The body must put the education of the school’s learners first,” says Prinsloo.

“If the Bela bill were to be accepted now, the governing body’s powers would be curtailed and could pose a direct threat to the survival of Afrikaans schools in particular.”

Prinsloo says that Solidarity emphasizes in its comments how governing bodies take much more than just policy decisions.

“It is the governing bodies that maintain the schools and in most cases they are the ones responsible for any renovation work. In addition, the governing body also provides work to numerous teachers who hire them as additional teachers and staff to meet the school’s needs,” says Prinsloo.

In Solidarity’s comments, it is warned that the Bela bill will have far-reaching negative consequences that will soon transform public schools into state schools.

“Changes to a school’s language of instruction will also have a direct consequence for governing body positions as well as other teaching positions,” says Prinsloo.

“If a change in the language demographics of the school’s learners is forced, this will of course also change the language demographics of the parents – and consequently the composition of the governing body -. Then follows a change in the language of instruction and then the culture of the school.

“The larger number of learners who sit in front of a teacher in each class can also affect the quality of teaching. Too large classroom numbers make teaching significantly more difficult.”

Solidarity asks that the impact of this amendment bill on the education system be seriously reconsidered and emphasizes the importance of a fair and efficient management structure for public schools.

The organization therefore calls for a fair and inclusive process that can guarantee the involvement of all role players in the education sector. This includes the involvement of governing bodies, teachers and parents to ensure a comprehensive and sustainable solution, with the interests of the learners as the main priority.

Solidarity is keeping a close eye on developments surrounding the Bela amendment bill and will continue to protect the rights of all parties involved in the South African education system, even if this requires legal action.

Read the comments here.