AfriForum has just submitted comprehensive comments on the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, in which it states that some of the proposed amendments are unconstitutional and threaten Afrikaans mother-language education. It also emphasises that if these amendments were to be implemented, it would amount to an irreparable, unilateral, and permanent breach of the 1994 constitutional settlement by the ANC government.
According to Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s Head of Cultural Affairs, the extensive legal opinion that forms part of this organisation’s submission indicates that there are many grounds on which the Bill deserves to be rejected. “For the Afrikaans community, the proposals that the provincial education heads should in future have the final say on the admission and language policy of schools, are the most contentious aspect. Not only does this amount to an unacceptable increasing centralisation of power in the hands of the state, but it will also destroy the current model of cooperation between the state and school communities, as represented by the democratically elected governing bodies of schools.”
AfriForum is of the opinion that there is no reason to interfere with the existing provisions of the South African Schools Act. As has been confirmed by several rulings of the Constitutional Court in the recent past, governing bodies as representatives of parents, learners and local school communities are much better equipped to determine the needs of their schools. They can provide the best input to ensure that children will enjoy access to excellent education in a formative educational and cultural environment.
Apart from the threat to Afrikaans schools, there are further grounds that make the BELA Bill undesirable, for example the vague nature of some proposals and the impractical increasing administrative red tape that will result from its implementation.
In addition to the objections made in its submission against the BELA Bill, AfriForum also proposes a model by means of which schools will be able to achieve greater autonomy. “The submission outlines how deserving schools can become more administratively and financially independent of the state, rather than having powers channelled away from the community to the state, with schools becoming ever more dysfunctional,” Bailey explained.
“South Africa’s education system is internationally notorious as one of the systems that receives the most state funding, but nevertheless performs the worst. More community involvement and mother-language education is a recipe for success and therefore schools should be kept as far away from the ideological power games of the ANC government as possible. Our children cannot be playthings in the hands of politicians. They deserve the best education possible and if the BELA Bill is passed, this will not be possible,” Bailey added.
AfriForum is prepared to make oral submissions on the BELA Bill and to discuss the autonomy model for schools in more detail with the Department of Basic Education.