The many complaints and opposition received by the controversial Education Laws Amendment Bill (Bela) have apparently fallen on deaf ears.
So say several parties and civil rights organizations that are against the adoption of this law.
The Bela bill was accepted by the portfolio committee for education on Tuesday and will now be presented to the National Assembly, before the nine provincial legislatures also have to approve it.
According to the DA, the government has spent millions of rand on public participation processes, but at this stage it appears to have been useless.
“The thousands of analyzes and presentations, the hundreds of kilometers traveled and the more than R8 million spent on public participation processes in the provinces had almost no impact on the ANC’s handling of the Bela bill,” says Baxolile Nodada, the DA’s spokesperson for basic education.
“Serious concerns have been ignored and questions about the wording of clauses, the impact of clauses on schools and communities, and the practical feasibility of the planned centralization remain unanswered.”
AfriForum says it is not surprised that the bill was accepted.
“It was already clear since last year that the motive for the inclusion of articles about schools’ language and admission policies was not better education, but pure politicking in the run-up to the election year,” says Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s head of cultural affairs.
Bailey argues that “several committee members’ statements made it clear that they are not interested in input from the public unless it aligns with their own ideological beliefs and agenda”.
“In the existing education legislation, ample provision is made for action against schools and governing bodies that misuse language and admission policies to discriminate on the basis of race. Yet this so-called discrimination was included in the bill as a reason for the inclusion of articles 5 and 6 on governing bodies’ right to decide on these policies.”
Bailey says that AfriForum has long since started preparing for legal action if the bill is accepted and implemented after consideration by the National Assembly, National Council of Provinces and the president. At this stage, these three steps are still pending and legal action cannot yet be taken.
Johan Botha, Solidarity’s deputy general secretary of Solidarity’s teacher network, also says that Solidarity may be forced to take legal action.
“The government refuses to fulfill its duty and abuses the legislative authority to push through unconstitutional laws. However, Solidarity will not watch as children are stripped of their school rights. We are ready to continue with legal action should this legislation be pushed through.”
Nodada says the DA will not allow schools to be bullied by the bill either.
“Scapegoating high-performing schools should not be national policy. Instead, the Department of Education should focus on implementing successful strategies in struggling schools and raising their standards.”