AfriForum ready to oppose the BELA Bill in current form

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AfriForum says it’s ready to oppose the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill should it be passed in its current format. The civil rights organisation’s youth members protested at the Union buildings in Pretoria, appealing to President Cyril Ramaphosa to completely scrap the Bill or have it revised.

The Bill seeks to amend key education policies in the country and has sparked controversy and has drawn criticism from various quarters.

AfriForum says this Bill is a direct attack against Afrikaans education which will have extremely negative consequences for quality education in Afrikaans single-medium schools and ultimately for all South African schools. The organisation wants the Bill revised.

“We will legally challenge the Bill should it be passed without being amended,” says AfriForum youth spokesperson Louis Boshoff.

The youth say it is going to leave young Afrikaans people angry.

“The Bill is also going to interfere with home schooling,” says Federation of Afrikaans Cultural Societies Frans de Klerk.

The BELA Bill proposes significant amendments to the South African Schools Act (SASA) of 1996 and the Educators Employment Act of 1998. Among others, making Grade R the new compulsory school starting grade instead of Grade 1. It also seeks to criminalize parents who fail to ensure their children attend school. As well as regulating home education.

The Bill has stirred up controversy and criticism from opposition parties as well as civil society groups. But others have welcomed it.

“We welcome the Bill as it doesn’t have intentions of sidelining sections of the community,” says Section 27’s Zeenat Sujee.

“We don’t support criminalization of parents, but we welcome the Bill,” says Equal Education Law Centre’s Katherine Sutherland.

The Department of Basic Education earlier estimated that implementing this provision would require a staggering R16 billion.

Another R12 billion would be needed for infrastructure, with R4 billion budgeted for staffing.