Gauteng public hearings on education bill continue amid confusion

The public hearing on the Basic Education Laws Amendment (Bela) Bill held in Tembisa, Ekurhuleni on Wednesday took on an interesting start. Some of the attendees wasted their three-minute by going off tangent.

Others made general pleas that fell outside the scope of the subject on the table. While others were well prepared to give their inputs. 

Hearings on Basic Education Amendment Bill of 2022 

Last week, the Gauteng Legislature’s Portfolio Committee on Education under the stewardship of chairperson Tshilidzi Munyai announced it is holding public hearings on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill of 2022. The hearings aim to gather input from the public and stakeholders.

The input is on proposed changes to the South African Schools Act (Sasa) of 1996. Also on the Employment of Educators Act (EEA) of 1998 (Act No. 76 of 1998). The hearings were set to be from February 23 to March 1.

Introduction of a few changes to SA Schools Act

This amended piece of legislation introduces a few changes to the South African Schools Act and the Employment of Educators Act. The move is for relevance in the current education landscape.

The bill also aims to ensure that systems of learning give effect to the right to basic education enshrined in section 29(1) of the constitution.

Back in Tembisa, Munyai did his best to remind the people inside the Sam Hlalele Community Centre to focus on the bill. However, not every speaker took note of his advice.

Most speakers were either unprepared, or had not been briefed

Some of the speakers included representatives of political parties, community groupings, NGOs, trade unions and teacher associations.

But not everyone in there seemed to have gotten the memo. Others used the opportunity to talk about the high unemployment rate among teachers. While others focused on subjects that were far from related to the new amendment bill.

However, some did manage to follow the rules of engagement. Still, a few clauses were problematic even for some who expressed support for the bill.

Schools admissions

Among the issues of contention raised at the Tembisa hearings were the powers that the bill gives to the head of department HoD.  This includes having the final say in admissions at the schools.

The DA’s Tebogo Masenya described the powers given to the HoD as excessive. “Power has been taken away from school governing bodies (SGBs) and the HoD given more powers,” he said.

Prudence Mabasa also expressed her unhappiness at the bill giving officials powers in closing micro schools without giving reasons. “In deep rural areas these schools are centres of interaction [for the community],” she said.

Closure of micro schools

Mabasa said the closure of micro schools also meant pupils had to travel longer distances to access education. Adding that it would present a good environment that is ripe for the creation of “transport tenderpreneurs”.

Another resident expressed his satisfaction with the bill giving the minister powers to make regulations on pregnant pupils. They expressed a concern at the high rate of teenage pregnancies.

Home schooling

A parent who is homeschooling her children said there was no need in the bill to amend the section relating to homeschooling. She said it means she has to get permission from the government on how to educate her children.

The next public hearings will take place in Soshanguve on Friday.

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