BELA Bill Now Passed, What Now?



Despite controversy, the BELA Bill passed the National Assembly. Education Minister Angie Motshekga outlined the potential changes for schools if the President approves the bill.



The Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA Bill) has been passed by the National Assembly, marking a significant development for South Africa's education system. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga hailed the bill's passage as a "watershed moment," with a vote of 223 in favor and 78 against.

Increased Oversight and Concerns

The BELA Bill ushers in a new era of increased oversight for schools by education departments. However, these changes have sparked anxieties about a potential power shift away from School Governing Bodies (SGBs). Previously, SGBs held primary responsibility for admissions and language policies.

The bill seeks to guarantee fairness in the implementation of these policies, addressing concerns around potential discrimination.

Minister Motshekga addressed concerns that the bill undermines school autonomy and parental rights, calling these claims "lies" spread by opponents of public education. She emphasized that the bill aspires to achieve a balance, not an erosion, of SGB authority.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) undertook a comprehensive public consultation process to ensure the bill reflects diverse perspectives. This process included receiving over 5,000 public comments and discussions with education officials.

In its development phase, the Bill saw the submission of almost 5,000 comments from the public, alongside 144 petitions with a collective weight of 195,695 names. Such engagement underscores the deep-rooted public interest in and commitment to refining our basic education system

The BELA Bill, according to Minister Motshekga, strives for a balance between SGB authority and ensuring inclusive language policies that uphold the right to basic education. The bill mandates that schools offer compassionate and practical support to pregnant learners, without dictating personal decisions.

The Minister clarified that her regulatory power doesn't involve dictating personal choices or interfering with health matters such as abortion. The focus is on guaranteeing schools adopt a supportive and practical approach towards assisting pregnant students.

SGB Authority Over Admissions

Minister Motshekga emphasized that SGBs retain control over admissions policies. The Department of Education will only intervene in situations of proven discrimination. The bill aims to guarantee that learners' constitutional right to education is protected.

"The BELA Bill unequivocally places the responsibility of determining the admission policy in the hands of the SGB."

It states: "The admission policy of a public school is determined by the governing body of such school," Minister Motshekga explained. "Therefore, it is mischievous to contend that this power is being removed from the SGB."

The Minister further clarified the Department's role

Within the confines of the law, the Head of Department (HOD) will only intervene where an admission policy discriminates against a pupil, which our Constitution frowns upon.

Refuting Misinformation on Abortion

Minister Motshekga firmly denied claims that the bill promotes abortion, stating it has no connection to pregnancy termination.

The BELA Bill makes no mention whatsoever of termination of pregnancy or abortion as some political party members have said repeatedly in public

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