SGBs face serious power wielding BELA Bill

SCHOOL governing bodies among other teaching professionals could be left powerless if the new Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA) is implemented.

The department of education drafted the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill which was released for public comment with a deadline of November 10 although published less than three weeks ago for all comments to be submitted.

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The bill proposes to amend the South African Schools Act, 1996 (Act No. 84 of 1996), and the Employment of Educators Act, 1998 (Act No. 76 of 1998), to align them with developments in the education landscape and to ensure that systems of learning and excellence in education are put in place in a manner which respects, protects, promotes and fulfils the right to basic education enshrined in Section 29 (1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

This is according to a statement from the Department of Basic Education which elaborated that Education Minister Angie Motshekga invited all interested parties and organisations to submit their comments on the bill by Friday.

During the process of developing the draft bill, all the provincial education departments were consulted and it was presented to the Heads of Education Departments Committee and the Council of Education Ministers.

The department said it had also briefed a number of organisations such as school governing body associations and unions involved in the education sector on the content of the draft bill.

According to the department, some of the organisation’s provincial education departments had provided the department with certain written comments.

After the closing date for the submission of comments, the comments that have been received by the department will be analysed and considered for possible incorporation into the draft bill.

The education department said it wanted to be clear that the bill was not a final document and that it may change noticeably when the department revises it on the basis of the comments received.

An online petition, however, spells a different tune.

The petition against proposed amendment of Schools Act said the Basic Education Department was ready to squash nearly all powers of school governing bodies should the proposed amendment bill push through.

The petition stated: “The changes will affect schools’ language policy, teacher appointments and pupil admissions.”

No answers from GDE

The GDE is yet to answer a few pivotal questions asked by the COURIER.

What exactly does the new bill, should it be implemented, mean?

What exactly in the bill will be changing?

Why the change?

Are those teachers employed and paid for by governing bodies, jobs on the line?

Will the amendment of this bill only have an effect on public schools or private schools as well? The department must also answer who will look after the school’s finances should governing bodies be stripped of decision making powers.

The proposed bill could mean an even steeper ratio of overcrowding in school classrooms with the learner/teacher ratio becoming completely ill administered.

Submit your comments

Those submitting comments for the bill should indicate the name and detailed contact information of the person or organisation submitting them which all should be directed to the Director-General, Private Bag X895, Pretoria, 0001, for attention: Adv. TD Rudman, Tel: 012 357 3856, email [email protected] and fax 012 323 9430.

Deadline for submission of comments is November 10.

Several have criticised the timing of the proposed bill in the academic year with less than 30-days allowed for public comment.

Several community members question if BELA ironically infringed on declarations, bills and acts. They see the bill as ill-conceived and will overload HODs with administration disregarding that they would already be bombarded with paperwork.

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Gopolang Chawane

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