Flood of protests greet draft ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion laws amend­ment bill


THOU­SANDS of con­cerned par­ents and ed­u­ca­tion stake­hold­ers have writ­ten to the De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion in protest against the draft Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Laws Amend­ment Bill (Bela).

The bill has been crit­i­cised for lim­it­ing the pow­ers of school gov­ern­ing bod­ies (SGB) in ap­point­ing school heads of de­part­ments, prin­ci­pals and their deputies.

The bill also seeks to hand con­trol to the de­part­ment in de­ter­min­ing a school’s lan­guage pol­icy and also seeks to pre­vent the dis­rup­tion of school­ing and cor­rup­tion.

Lawyer and for­mer SGB deputy chair­per­son at a prom­i­nent Dur­ban school, Nonhlanhla Gumede, said she did not be­lieve the bill would pass in its cur­rent form. She said the is­sue of pro­mo­tions and ap­point­ments was con­cern­ing even though there were good as­pects to the bill.

Gumede said the de­part­ment had to be com­mended for recog­nis­ing the need to mete out harsher penal­ties to par­ents who pre­vented pupils from at­tend­ing school and also to pun­ish oth­ers who dis­rupted school­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.

Chair­man of the Kwazu­lunatal Par­ents’ As­so­ci­a­tion Dur­ban South, Vee Gani, said some amend­ments in the bill were not fea­si­ble at present.

“It says schools should have more than one lan­guage of in­struc­tion but the de­part­ment knows that it has re­peat­edly failed to pro­vide ad­e­quate teach­ers to some schools be­cause of a lack of fund­ing and so forth,” Gani said.

“Also, schools al­ready teach at least two lan­guages but to have both as a lan­guage of in­struc­tion will also re­quire books and study guides in both lan­guages, which cur­rently don’t ex­ist in lan­guages such as isizulu.”

Both Gumede and Gani con­ceded that there had been cases when SGBS had dis­rupted school­ing and when they had taken bribes from peo­ple who wanted pro­mo­tions, which the bill sought to ad­dress.

“The de­part­ment’s own of­fi­cials have been found to have col­luded with the SGBS in in­ci­dents of cor­rup­tion like the sell­ing of posts, which is even more rea­son why power should not be given to one per­son who will not have to ac­count to the other stake­hold­ers,” said Gumede.

Ca­pac­i­tate SGBS

Teacher unions were also against the pro­posal that the de­part­ment take over the process of pro­mo­tions in schools.

Allen Thomp­son of the Na­tional Teach­ers’ Union (Natu) agreed that some SGBS lacked ca­pac­ity in the hir­ing of se­nior teach­ers and in deal­ing with school fi­nances.

“Yes, some SGBS lack ca­pac­ity in deal­ing with pro­mo­tional ap­point­ments and the man­age­ment of school fi­nances, but the de­part­ment should rather look at ways of ca­pac­i­tat­ing them,” he said.

Therona Mood­ley of the Na­tional Pro­fes­sional Teach­ers’ Or­gan­i­sa­tion of South Africa (Nap­tosa) said the draft bill would lead to a “dic­ta­to­rial and un­demo­cratic” sit­u­a­tion and the de­part­ment had not con­sid­ered cre­ative ways of man­ag­ing ex­ist­ing chal­lenges.

“We ac­knowl­edge that some SGBS lack the in­sight to rec­om­mend the ap­point­ment of school man­agers. To­gether, all stake­hold­ers must find al­ter­na­tives that will ben­e­fit all,” said Mood­ley.

On Wed­nes­day Natu made its rep­re­sen­ta­tions to the de­part­ment on the bill and Thomp­son said they had also asked for a review of the clause re­lated to se­cu­rity, which states that only the prin­ci­pal or a per­son ap­pointed by the prin­ci­pal may search pupils for weapons and il­le­gal sub­stances.

“Teach­ers are not se­cu­rity guards, and to have a bill that says they must search pupils then take the drugs or weapons to the near­est po­lice sta­tion could po­ten­tially put their lives at risk,” said Thomp­son.

“The de­part­ment must look at al­ter­na­tive ways of ad­dress­ing se­cu­rity prob­lems in schools, such as in­stalling metal de­tec­tors and hir­ing more guards.”

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