BELA will deny rights and alienate communities, says AfriForum

In reaction to the presentation of James Ndlebe, Chief Director of Planning of the Department of Basic Education to the Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sports, Art and Culture this morning, AfriForum pointed out that the BELA Bill will not serve to improve education and cohesion, but will in fact undermine quality education and alienate communities in the country from each other. Ndlebe claimed that the bill is essential for “transformation” in the education sector.

According to Alana Bailey, AfriForum’s Head of Cultural Affairs, it is clear that the controversial parts of the bill pertaining to the final decision-making powers regarding schools’ admission and language policies were created to anglicise Afrikaans schools, as well as to conceal the department’s failure to build adequate schools and provide education in more mother languages.

“The department persists in portraying monolingual Afrikaans mother-language schools as unacceptable. Lately, it is being done in a more circumspect manner, but Afrikaans speakers know that it is Afrikaans schools in particular that have been accused of exclusion in the past and where staff and governing bodies are still constantly under pressure to provide English tuition,” Bailey says.

She adds that the right to mother-language education is internationally recognised as a basic human right and that Ndlebe’s explanation on the eve of Human Rights Day is therefore all the more ironic.

“The BELA Bill will enable the department to force schools to accept more learners and destroy the existing mother-language education in any language other than English with the pretext that children will not be excluded. In essence, English-language education excludes 90% of the country’s children because English is not their mother language.”

“On average the education system in the country is already one of the worst in the world and it is only going to get worse with fuller classes and second language tuition. Moreover, the disregard for communities’ language rights causes social unrest and even violence. It fuels tension between communities and leads to cultural intolerance. This makes the BELA Bill an extremely dangerous and unacceptable bill that will directly affect the future of everyone in the country,” Bailey concludes.

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