The civil rights organisation AfriForum attended the portfolio committee meeting for basic education on 28 November 2017. This meeting dealt with the Department of Basic Education’s proposed amendment to the Schools Act following the amount of resistance it was met with from the public.
During the committee meeting, the Department did a presentation on the proposed amendments, as well as what the rationale for each amendment is.
“Unfortunately, this presentation did not address the many misgivings about the proposed Amendment Bill at all,” says Carien Bloem, AfriForum’s Project Coordinator for Education.
AfriForum earlier this month submitted a legal opinion with in-depth commentary regarding the Amendment Bill. This follows because it aims to significantly limit the managerial powers of school governing bodies.
Schools that will be impacted most by the Bill are in fact those schools that currently offer the best quality of education and enjoy parent community involvement – whatever the socio-economic situation of the community. Bloem further states that not all provincial education department heads are in the position to optimally manage all the schools in their provinces and therefore governing bodies’ rights with regard to the management of schools, learners and personnel cannot be taken away.
Nomalungelo Gina, Chairperson of the meeting, did however mention that the process is still in the beginning stages and that the final Bill will only be presented in Parliament next year. The process that will be followed to reach this stage, is however still unclear.
Cheryllyn Dudley, representative of the ACDP, also strongly recommended that schools need to be evaluated according to their unique circumstances, and that all schools cannot be treated the same, because not all schools in South Africa function at the same level.
Mohamed Surty, Deputy Minister of Basic Education, indicated that Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, had given postponement for comments on the Amendment Bill until 10 January 2018.
“Many of the proposed amendments are the result of the current poor performance and maladministration in the Department, and not because of shortcomings in current legislation. Many of the amendments are therefore unnecessary. The Department should in many cases rather fulfil its duties by offering more functional schools to the thousands of learners who do not have access to schools and quality education, for example,” concludes Bloem.