Following the latest media reports on planned amendments to education legislation, AfriForum has reiterated its concerns regarding the far-reaching nature of the proposed amendments and uncertainty about the process being followed.
In 2017 amendments to the existing Schools Act had already been proposed by the Department of Basic Education. At the time, AfriForum responded with the submission of a comprehensive legal opinion and even attended a related meeting of the parliamentary portfolio committee.
Just before Christmas 2019, it was reported in the media that a bill has again been published for public comments by the department, with the deadline for such comments being 15 January 2020. Upon closer examination, it turned out to be a working document presented to a small group of stakeholders only. It is not available for public comments yet ‒ only the comments of this working group will be accepted by the department at this stage.
AfriForum’s legal team is familiar with the working document. Objections raised in 2017 about the proposed amendments are not assuaged by it – on the contrary, it seems to be a mere continuation of, among other issues, the department’s efforts to erode parents’ involvement in schools and the concentration of power within the department.
In 2017, AfriForum had already pointed out that the schools that will be worst affected by this approach, will be the very schools that currently offer the education of the highest quality. Regardless of the socio-economic circumstances of communities, the best performing schools are those with involved and committed parent communities. AfriForum also maintains its position that parents have the right to decide on the education of their children – a right provided for by existing legislation.
In an urgent letter to the department’s director of legal services, AfriForum asked for a guarantee that the proposed amendments will be published in future to provide a further opportunity for public consultation and comments to the general public, school communities and school governing bodies. No response has been received yet, but AfriForum will monitor the process closely to ensure that the rights of learners, parents and school governing bodies are protected.