Education draft bill causes a stir

With just a few days left for the public to comment on the contentious Basic Education Law Amendment (Bela) Bill, civil society organisations have slated the portfolio committee on basic education for retaining some of the most problematic clauses, despite fierce public opposition.

Speaking at the People’s Assembly’s civic education forum this week to assist the public to understand the contents of the bill and the process of making submissions, Equal Education Law Centre’s (EELC’s) candidate attorney Ebrahiem Daniels said the portfolio committee retained a strong stance on the problematic clauses in all versions of the bill, despite substantial submissions made by civil society organisations.

The EELC and its sister organisation, Equal Education – which have praised the bill’s language policies, saying it guards against language being used in exclusionary ways – are focusing on sections that deal with documents required, corporal punishment, alcohol on school premises, compulsory school attendance, language policies and suspension and expulsion in their submission.

Civil society organisations, which include the Kagiso Trust and others dealing with interests of children, have also called for the deadline, which is on Wednesday (June 15) to be extended to allow them more time to consolidate submissions.

Senior attorney at EELC Anjuli Maistry also highlighted that the bill does not align with other legislation, case law, policies and incoming amendments relating to documents that accompany a child’s application for schooling.

“The law is clear that documents are not required in order [for children] to attend school,” she said.

She explained that the proposed amendments create four categories of pupils, South African; permanent resident or temporary resident; asylum seeker or refugee; and children in alternative care – with each category requiring a specific set of documents, some of which have nothing to do with school administration and are in violation of the Protection of Personal Information Act.

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