BELA Bill: Government is inviting you to stand up for our children

In October 2023, the National Assembly adopted the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill. The public was then invited to email the Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture of the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The deadline for the NCOP submissions was 31 January 2024 at 16:00.

The public is now being asked to send comments to the legislature of individual provinces. These have different deadlines and different email addresses, as detailed below.

đź•— This page was last updated on Monday, 19 February 2024.

Hello, fellow South Africans!

Have you perhaps heard about the BELA Bill (Basic Education Law Amendments) and, if so, do you know what it’s all about?

When it comes to the BELA Bill, the ANC says that culture, equality, inclusion, and diversity must be available for all â€¦

Mmm, that sounds good, right?

Unfortunately, we’re not convinced. We have the following concerns:

Abortion

Teachers may be sent to jail or fined if they don’t facilitate girls of 12 years of age and older for abortions behind their parents backs.

Yes, you read that right.

And, yes, we’ve heard the rhetoric… Government seems to want us to think our interpretation of this issue is just one big mistake.

However, the facts are that Clause 39 states that school learner pregnancy will be regulated. And the actual School Learner Pregnancy Policy itself requires that teachers must assist learners of 12 years and older who wish to have abortions behind their parents’ backs.

We then return to the regulations in the BELA Bill which says that teachers who do not comply with the regulations may face fines or 6 months (adjusted from 12 months) in jail!

Centralised and unrestricted power granted to the Minister of Education

Angie Motshekga will be in charge of your children for up to 12 hours a day with no one to stop her or tell her what to do.

This bill provides the Minister unrestricted and unregulated powers to regulate!

Sorry guys, but this situation is completely unacceptable because it’s vulnerable to abuse.

How do you feel about Angie? Do you want to give her free rein with regard to the children of SA!

Umm, are we missing something? We can’t see the ANC’s promise of equality, inclusion and diversity in this, hey?

A One-Size-Fits-All Curriculum

No one, including home educators, will have any control over which curriculum is used at schools.

ALL learners, (including home educators) will be forced to comply with CAPS which includes Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and which would be unacceptable to religious communities across SA.

So government, you promise to respect culture and diversity. We do not find this respectful. How does this align?

CSE was introduced in 2000, so is already being taught.

Government said CSE is necessary to deal with issues such as rape, teenage pregnancy and reducing the STDs.

However, since 2000, teen pregnancies have only decreased by a minimal amount which sadly appears to be offset by increased numbers of abortions. From this we can unfortunately see that CSE has had no noticeable positive effect

And further, between January and March of this year alone, 8 murders, 14 attempted murders and 84 rapes occurred on the premises of educational facilities (including universities and day care centres!) More than 36 teachers have been fired this year for raping, impregnating and sexually abusing learners. In the light of these horrific events, it is somewhat difficult to attribute any meaningful or significant positive effects to the teaching of CSE.

Instead, although government says CSE will help prevent sex crimes, our fear is that it may actually be contributing to this dreadful state of affairs due to the fact that it has not been properly thought through. CSE normalises certain sexual behaviour and introduces sexual information at an age when children are mentally unable to process it and therefore become inappropriately stimulated and confused.

We could go on and on about this topic, but we also want to make special mention of our special needs and neurodivergent children whose requirements have not been addressed at all in the BELA Bill. 

One line about sign language in the BELA Bill is not going to cut it, Angie.

It’s just not good enough that the BELA Bill does not cater for diverse children with different needs or who learn differently. All children have potential waiting to be unlocked. Why does this bill slam those doors shut?

All these children could fall between the cracks and be left behind.

Unregulated Regulation of, and Restrictions on Home Education

Home Educators, who are trying to offer their children an education that suits their needs and is based on conservative values and religion, will be regulated by the government, and could be forced to teach their children subjects like Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE).

Government seems to have been trying to muddy the waters and accuse this sector of hijacking the BELA Bill.

However, legally speaking, Home Education isn’t even an “educational institution” so why is this sector being regulated via this Bill?

On top of this, although The Department of Basic Education admits they have no knowledge, nor expertise in the field of home education, they failed to consult meaningfully with any representatives from this group.

Finally, home educators are nice people. They are also efficient and mobilised which is why they have been so effective in opposing this bill. Just because their children are being educated at home does not mean they don’t care about all the children of SA.

Language Policy

The Head of Department for each province (not the parents, nor the school governing boards that they elected) will choose what language of instruction is used at schools.

Even though children died in Soweto in 1976 for the right to be educated in their home language, the BELA Bill states that the provincial heads of department – not the parents, nor their School Governing Boards – will be able to decide on the language of instruction used at each school.

With regard to the ANC’s stated concern for our diversity and culture — may we please ask… where is the respect?

Admissions Policy

The Minister (not the parents, nor the school governing boards that they elected) will decide on how many learners are educated at each school and thus in every class.

Closure of Small “Non-viable” Schools

Public schools with less than 135 learners could be closed, meaning a child of six years old might have to travel by bus for hours on their own to get to school. Imagine this is your child. No! Kill this Bill!

Although far too many schools are overcrowded, and resources overstretched — the BELA Bill provides for closure of primary schools with less than 135 learners and secondary schools with less than 200 learners. as if this is a solution.

As if this is a solution, the government is proposing building new schools and boarding schools…

We would like to know who will pay for the construction of these schools (when they say they cannot even afford to build toilets at existing schools!) And who will cover the transport costs to get these learners to alternative facilities?

Please note this concern does not only apply to rural schools. We know of a school in a small town that has very few learners but it’s an excellent primary school, yet such a school will be deemed a “non-viable” school according to the BELA Bill.

Compulsory Grade R

Are you happy for your five-year old to be handed over to a state institution at such a young age and possibly exposed to sex education, sexual predation, pit latrines, unsupervised public transport and a lot of institutional rules and systems and more?

Do you realise that, according to the BELA Bill, if you don’t agree to this, then you, as a parent, could be criminalised and face a fine or a jail sentence of up to one year?

Government have marketed Grade R to communities as a very positive and desirable prospect that meets developmental goals — and is in the best interests — of their children.

Grade R is indeed a crucial developmental period.

And unfortunately, many experts believe that children are, in fact, not emotionally, nor psychologically ready nor equipped to deal with the rules and systems that go with institutional education.

Children of this age should instead be learning through play and should therefore not be forced to attend Grade R.

Grade R learners still need a lot of age-appropriate emotional support and Grade R can be overwhelming and intimidating even for the bravest Grade R.

A child of this age also needs very specific educational environments and equipment.

The Department of Basic Education’s budget is already insufficient and is used as an excuse as to why many young children are forced to use dangerous pit latrines and teachers are insufficiently trained.

So, why is government suggesting the forced attendance of grade R when they can’t afford it?

Could it be because they have been offered and promised access to international funding to encourage the implementation of the above.

Regrettably, given government’s poor record of handling public finances, we, the people are not encouraged by the above.

Grade R also requires more space than is allowed for in traditional classrooms.

Inconveniently, however, there are no guidelines, nor are details provided to guarantee basic norms and standards for these schools.

Furthermore, government’s Grade R requirement will mean removing children from functioning Early Childhood Development (ECD) facilities causing loss of employment to this sector. 

Government is using the possibility of providing improved nutrition for children at school as a justification for forcing compulsory attendance of Grade R.

However, why doesn’t government just give ECD facilities food grants and save taxpayers from additional infrastructure expense?

And finally, are you okay with children of this age being exposed to sex education?

According to the UN’s own International Technical Guidance on Sexuality Education document, children between 5 and 8 should, for example, be able to define gender and biological sex and describe how they are different and must be able to identify sources of information about sex and gender.

And, according to this same document, our government has signed up to their CSE program. So, although CSE is currently only being taught from Grade 4, our government has in fact given a commitment to start teaching sex education at the age of 5, i.e. Grade R.

Please refer to Point 2 which mentions how unsafe our educational environments are – rife with sexual predation and crime.

For all children, never mind a child of 5, this is a terrible situation and of deep concern!

Where are we at with this BELA Bill Bulldust?

In August 2023, the Portfolio Committee of Basic Education (PCBE) adopted the BELA Bill public participation report, ignoring 9,501 written submissions from the public, of which 90% would, statistically speaking, very likely have opposed the bill.

In spite of this, the National Assembly (NA) adopted the bill, with minor amendments, in October 2023. It is now being processed by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), during which time there will be public hearings and the opportunity for the public to email government and let them know what they think.

Currently, the public is invited to email the Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture of the NCOP.

The deadline for these NCOP submissions was 31 January 2024 at 16:00 (extended from 19 January) ⊗ COMMENTS NOW CLOSED

The public will also be able to email the relevant provincial legislators as part of the process, with each province opening their comment separately (listed below with deadlines):

  • Mpumalanga: 31 January 2024 COMMENT PERIOD EXTENDED: 28 February 2024

  • KwaZulu-Natal: 20 February 2024

  • North West: 2 February 2024 ⊗ COMMENTS NOW CLOSED

  • Free State: 5 March 2024

  • Northern Cape: 12 March 2024

  • Western Cape: 4 April 2024

  • Eastern Cape: 15 March 2024

  • Gauteng: 5 March 2024

  • Other provinces are expected to follow suit soon…

When all this is completed, the President will be asked to sign off. Only once that is done, will the BELA Bill be passed into law. 

And still, the battle will not be over.

There are many civil rights organisations and political parties (such as the Federation of Associations of Governing Bodies of South African Schools [FEDSAS], Solidariteit, the South African Teachers’ Union [SAOU], the Pestalozzi Trust and the Democratic Alliance) who have threatened legal action, should this take effect.

What can you do?

Government’s official letter writing campaign on the BELA Bill is now open.

Write a letter expressing your views and concerns with regard to the BELA Bill and email it to the Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture of the NCOP, as well as the relevant provincial legislators using this button (you need an email app like Gmail, Outlook or Apple Mail, to be set up on your phone or computer):

Button not working? Please email [email protected] (Ms Pretty Mahlangu, Mpumalanga Legislature) [email protected] (Mrs Gugu Dube, KwaZulu-Natal Legislature), [email protected] (Mr Fuzile Ngangelizwe, Free State Legislature), [email protected] (Conie S, Free State Legislature), [email protected] (Pusletso R, Free State Legislature), [email protected] (Matshabalala M, Free State Legislature), [email protected] (Mr. Dennis Fritz, Northern Cape Legislature), [email protected] (Ms Wasiema Hassen-Moosa, Western Cape Standing Committee on Education on the Amendment Bill), [email protected] (Ms Mandisa Daniels-Mana, Eastern Cape Legislature), [email protected] (Mr Thabo Kekana, Gauteng Legislature), [email protected] (Mr Pheello Mashiloane, Gauteng Legislature), and Bcc [email protected] (the red list) and [email protected] (The Pestalozzi Trust).

The deadline for the NCOP was 31 January 2024 (⊗ COMMENTS NOW CLOSED).

Additional provinces will be added above as soon as their various campaigns are opened.

Each email will be Bcc’d to the red list and the Pestalozzi Trust so that we have a record of all emails that have been sent, in case the government tries to pull the same stunt they did when they ignored 9,051 written submissions to the PCBE. The emails will also provide important evidence should court action be required. 

Note that you can email any province in South Africa as part of this campaign, regardless of where you reside. You are also permitted to send multiple submissions.

Please ensure you do not duplicate your letters as this results in them
being disregarded.

Remember to say what you think and write what is on your heart.

Please share this document to help create awareness and promote our campaign.

Also, vote securely in our referendum (link below) to provide a public record of just how many South Africans do not want this bill!

Why should you do this?

We are aiming to send the government 100,000 emails, because they simply won’t have time to process this bill, which will then be delayed to the next session of Parliament.

We do not trust the government, given their track record on this bill so far.

And, in case of court action, we want to have a record of all emails sent, so we have the receipts!

Thank you for your help, fellow South Africans.
The children of South Africa need you.

Bye Bye BELA Bill – Vote NO, this Bill must GO!

The proposed Bill is the first major revision of the post-Apartheid education landscape, and will likely shape that landscape for the next 10 to 15 years.

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