Some of the proposed changes in the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill have raised eyebrows among Koffiefontein parents in the Free State. The selling of alcohol on school premises and allowing teenagers to have an abortion without their parents’ knowledge received the most flak.
Parents made their inputs on the proposed amendment Bill during a public hearing hosted by Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education. Some of the proposed changes that have left parents outraged across the province include selling of alcohol on school premises after hours during non-school related activities and allowing teenagers to have an abortion without their parents’ concern.
The Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill also proposes a standard home-schooling curriculum. Other parts of the Bill that have raised eyebrows include giving government department heads power over language policies and the curriculum a school must adopt. The Bill also proposes criminalising parents who do not ensure their children are in school, with fines or jail time of up to 12 months.
“A child of 12 years-old cannot be given that right to go and do pregnancy and abortions, so we are not supporting that section,” a parent says.
“Representing the home community, we do not support the BELA bill as its currently being proposed by the Department of Basic Education. The reason for this specifically is clause 37 under this clause it says that all learners should follow the CAPS curriculum,” another parent said.
The Congress of South African School Governing Bodies believes that the proposal that school governing bodies of public schools should submit the admission policy to the head of the department for approval will ease the admission challenges that many parents face, especially in urban areas. The organisation says parents will now have the liberty to take their children to any school they want without being restricted due to their location.
“We support the bill, especially the amendment of section 5 it is going to assist our people a lot. We had a lot of challenges especially in the urban areas in Gauteng. We think by amending this section will give everybody a chance to study where the parents take their learners, where they want to,” says Peter Aphane of the Congress of South African School Governing.
The chairperson of Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Basic Education says people are not out rightly rejecting the Bill but have highlighted sections that they did not agree with.
“People do not have a problem with the Bill in totality. There are clauses that they feel they don’t agree for instance people would say that we don’t agree with the issue of language, people would say we don’t agree with the issue of admissions, people would say we don’t agree with SGB. But not necessarily with all the clauses and I think that’s what is important about this Bill, you don’t get a total rejection,” says Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, Chairperson of Basic Education Portfolio Committee.
The committee is still expected to hold provincial public hearings in North West, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng before breaking for the Easter holidays. Thereafter, they will conclude the hearings in coastal provinces.