Bela bill in Summary 2022
Spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education, Elijah Mhlanga, has unpacked the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, clarifying what the Bill is for and debunking false information around proposed changes.
The Bill, which was announced back in 2017, was finally tabled this year after four years of discussion and aims to make a few adjustments to South Africa’s laws surrounding education, including the South African Schools Act and the Employment of Educators Act.
The proposed changes to the Language and Admissions Policies of schools is a topic discussed the most.
The Language Policy originally states that schools must choose a language/languages of learning and teaching, and the Admissions Policy details the school’s entry requirements that learners and parents should meet when gaining admission into a school.
However, the BELA Bill now suggests that the Provincial heads of the Department should have the final say when it comes to the Language and Admissions Policies.
Objections to the proposed changes have arisen, with some feeling that this change to the Policies will use up the power that School Governing Body’s (SGB’s) hold.
Mhlanga says the BELA Bill is not really about the power of the SGB’s being taken away or about alcohol being brought onto school premises (a law is being proposed which allows alcohol to be on school property, but only for the purpose of fund-raising); instead, it’s a lot more than that.
“It’s important that we broaden our minds, we broaden our thinking, we take a much wider view in terms of what the Minister [of Basic Education] is intending to achieve with these laws.”
Mhlanga says objections from the public are welcomed and encouraged, as “public participation is exactly about that; to get you to talk, to get you to leave your comfort zone, to get you to mobilize other people,” so that the public’s comments can also be considered in the finalization process.
Due to the pandemic, the process of reviewing the BELA Bill was halted, but in 2021 it was read by the portfolio committee and a second window for public opinion was opened, which is currently taking place until the 15th of August.
The document is available for the public to add their comments on the Parliament website.