Bela: Man’s law, or God’s?


By Anlia Archer

We need to be able to tell each other that faith is an emotionally charged issue on which few of us will ever agree. The intention with this blog is in no way to point the finger, or to appoint myself as a spokesperson for a specific group. It simply stems from my experience that my deep religious convictions have anchored me, as a fallible individual, many times and that I would like to wish the same bliss for my child.

This year my daughter is in gr. 1. I feel this is a new chapter in our parenting journey and now we are also finally part of the school’s full-fledged parent corps. I participate in every fundraising event, and attend every meeting and information evening, because to some extent I still can’t believe we’re already here. Like any other parent, I only want the best for our child and I am speechless with gratitude and wonder at the privilege we have of being able to send our child to a special and excellent school – a public school, I must add.

I am grateful for the little guy who can barely read, but who confidently reads a Bible version during the opening of a parents’ meeting. I am excited about the dear little girl who prays so beautifully, and actually very deeply, for our Father’s hand of protection over each of the children and their families. I wonder if she understands what she is praying but I realize, even if someone recited it to her and this little prayer was faithfully rehearsed like a little poem for the Eisteddfod, that the seed has been planted and that this child will in all probability remember the little prayer.

The nature of my work allows me to spend time almost on a daily basis in staff rooms and in principals’ offices. It is also typical for any school principal to tell an outsider about the successes they have achieved as a school. Without exception, each principal and teacher then says in his or her turn: It is only by God’s grace.

We can get very legalistic about the dangers of the proposed Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill or as everyone knows it by now, the Bela Law. We realize that schools’ language policy is in jeopardy and the survival of our top Afrikaans schools, which are funded with parents’ money, is at stake. Furthermore, we also know that mother tongue teaching, in any phase of learning, is unparalleled and that its value cannot be emphasized enough and that it is now also in jeopardy. However, it is the question of a neutral religious policy that bothers me. Practicing faith in schools has been in jeopardy for some time. We often read about activist groups that want to completely remove faith from our schools. Along with this, the proposed amendments stipulate that individuals can apply for exemption from a school’s code of conduct if it is not in line with their own religious beliefs. Although this policy is already applied, the proposed legislative amendment will enforce it and the state will have the final say on the faith policy that a school must follow. I shudder to think what catastrophic consequences this will bring.

My concern about this is twofold – I am a concerned parent and a concerned former teacher. My concern as a parent lies in the fact that my child may be exposed to ideas and values ​​for which she is simply not mature enough. I grant everyone their place under the sun, but I would like the same to be granted to me and my descendants. We as parents made a deliberate decision to place our daughter in a school where Christian principles form the foundation. I also struggle to understand how you teach a child in a moral and ethical manner without imparting Christian values. It is part of my being human and of my DNA. It is part of the vast majority of the conservative Afrikaner population. Not only that, but I am deprived of fulfilling a direct command given to me by my God.

As a teacher, I am concerned because faith plays an important role in disciplining children. We teach them what is right and wrong and that you should love your fellow man as yourself. It reminds children of their own morality and that you must behave ethically in your actions. This proposed amendment to the law will put even more restrictions on teachers when it comes to maintaining discipline. The faith policy at a school encourages a sense of belonging, it encourages community involvement, it encourages respect for others and a character of humility and integrity – these things which are certainly needed more in today’s society. Indeed, it serves as a moral compass and forms the solid foundation that we as educators can use to determine whether our decisions are justified.

Although it is not part of the formal curriculum as in the days of old, Bible stories are still incorporated into the formal school work. It teaches children from an early age that it is not always easy to do the right thing. I am particularly proud that my six-year-old can explain very well the meaning of the cross and Jesus’ crucifixion, even though the understanding of it is abstract. This understanding was certainly deepened and further established in school. We also see the power of opening in the square, the opening with Scripture reading and prayer before staff meetings and the warm invitations to the prayer groups for mothers at these schools. The vast majority of the children in these schools thrive and flourish with their God-given talents. Being able to teach children about the Word and God’s grace is a special privilege, but also one of the heaviest responsibilities a teacher has. There is an element of eternity linked to this and I also believe that one day we will probably have to account for this more.

As a Christian woman, mother and teacher, but most importantly as a daughter of God, it is of the utmost importance to me that my child is taught and educated according to Christian principles.

I then consider this as my public declaration of my dependence on God the Father and my acceptance of my great biblical task of teaching my child in His ways. I admit that sometimes I will make mistakes, but that I will still do everything in my power to fulfill my duty. With this, of course, I also realize that the time has come for me to stand up against anything that threatens the execution of this important task.

That is why it is important that we as parents stand up for our children’s rights, that we say a loud and clear NO to Bela, and that we stop being lukewarm when it comes to our children’s education. I appeal to all Afrikaner parents to realize the seriousness of the matter and stand with me to protect our children, their future and their souls.

~2 Timothy 3:15 – 17: “… and you know the holy scriptures from childhood. It can give you the knowledge that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and has great value in teaching the truth, combating error, correcting wrongs and cultivating a right way of life, so that the man who stands in the service of God will be fully prepared and equipped for every good work.”

  • Archer is an industry specialist and organizer of Solidarity’s teacher network.