25 July 2023
Dear Fellow Educators,
We trust that you have heard about the BELA Bill and are somewhat familiar with this pending legislation. Perhaps you have heard about the BELA Bill Public Hearings that took place nationally over the past few weeks.
For those who are unaware, the BELA Bill is the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill that is currently being deliberated in Parliament in an attempt to make amendments to the South African Schools Act (SASA) of 1996.
The Department of Basic Education claims that the BELA Bill seeks to align the SASA to the other existing laws of South Africa, and ensures that the BELA Bill is transformative and promotes social cohesion.
These sound like noble ideals, however the BELA Bill in its current form does not, regrettably, address the inherent challenges in education, and all it really seems to achieve is to strengthen the administrative capacity of the Minister of Basic Education to make broad policy decisions.
According to the Bill, the Minister will, in effect, be authorised to have unlimited powers to make a number of policy decisions without prescription or rigorous mechanisms for stakeholder engagement.
Unfortunately, educators, School Governing Body (SGB) members, and principals were conspicuously underrepresented amongst those who attended the public hearings. Those educators who were present, claimed to be proud members of SADTU, and tended to speak on behalf of the organisation, and not in their individual capacity.
We are reaching out to you, as fellow educators, to draw your attention to the possible impacts of the BELA Bill, should it be enacted into law.
This is a complex bill, touching on many different issues. We have encountered many educators stating that they were under the impression that the BELA Bill only affects the home education sector.
This is a concerning misunderstanding.
We have raised nine points below that would affect public/government schools directly. We hope that this will give you a better understanding of what the government has planned in order for you to be able to make informed decisions.
How do you feel about this additional administrative burden?
The fact that the onus rests on you as educators… is this justified and necessary?
Do you feel that your school has the capacity to offer various languages of instruction (LOI) without compromising the present quality of learning enjoyed at your school?
Do you feel that the staff at your school will manage to absorb increased numbers of learners as determined by the Minister?
Do you, in all honesty, believe that the closure of so many schools is in the absolute best interest of our children, particularly those living in remote, rural areas?
Do you think that the current framework is fair and adequately addresses the practicality of learner management? What do you feel about facing disciplinary action like a fine, imprisonment of up six months (or both), if you implement classroom strategies that, by the expanded definition of corporal punishment, are punishable in the face of challenging learner behaviour?
Do you feel it is wise for the DBE to make provision for the sale of alcohol on school premises?
Do you, in your own estimation, believe that there is a need for more focus on educators trained to teach learners with special needs in order to ensure inclusivity?
Do you think that the majority of South African educators will support the inclusion of the CSE programme without the freedom to object to having to present lessons on CSE on the basis of moral or religious grounds?
Conclusion, and Vote in the Referendum
Should the above nine issues not raise our concerns, especially since we educators are primary stakeholders in education?
The provincial government claims to have notified schools and educators via their internal messaging system, yet daily we speak to educators who are utterly in the dark regarding the BELA Bill and any possible implications and impacts. In fact, educators were in the main unaware of the BELA Bill public hearings as well as of the BELA Bill itself.
Fortunately, there is a small chance that another round of public participation will be conducted in order to allow for more thorough consultation with schools, educators and parents. In the meantime though, we ask you to mobilise, get wise, get active and make your voice heard.
At the time of writing this letter, over 50,000 concerned South Africans had voiced their strong opposition to the BELA Bill by voting NO in the BELA Bill referendum on referendums.co.za.
Large numbers of votes against the BELA Bill are a clear indication of public sentiment and opinion and can be used in possible legal action or to pressure members of parliament.
So if, after reading this letter, you too have any concerns about this bill, please join us by voting securely and privately in the referendum, and share this information with friends, family and colleagues.
With warm regards,
a group of concerned fellow educators
PGCE-FET; NDip Visual Art and History of Art
Joanne de Waal
BEd.Hons; Learners with Special Needs
MA English Literature; MA Creative Writing; PGCE; PGDiP Journalism