WC BELA hearings see massive public engagement

Issued by Deidré Baartman, MPP – DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Education
05 Mar 2024 in Press Statements

The Western Cape’s public hearings into the controversial and much-debated Basic Education Law Amendment (BELA) Bill began last week. The first four hearings have already seen the public come out in their numbers to make their voices heard, and in most cases, to reject the content of the Bill.

Last week’s hearings – held in Beaufort West, Bitou, George, and Mossel Bay – saw near-record attendance, with more than 2 000 members of the public attending the hearings last week. The Western Cape Provincial Parliament’s procedural staff have also received more than 4 000 written submissions through email, WhatsApp, and online channels thus far.

Tellingly, some of the most impassioned submissions have been from parents and educators who expressed strong opposition to the Bill. A national piece of legislation proposed by the ANC, the BELA Bill seeks to reform legal provisions around basic education in South Africa. However, the Bill does nothing to fix systemic issues such as high dropout rates and lack of educational resources, nor does it provide desperately-needed protections for victims of sexual assault in our schools.

Instead, clauses four, five, seventeen, and thirty-five of the Bill centralise power in the hands of the national minister of education. This means that decisions over language and admission policies will be taken out of the hands of parents and educators, and handed to unaccountable and unelected bureaucrats in Pretoria. The Bill also places oppressive restrictions on the ability of parents to homeschool their children should they choose to do so, and presents no workable or financially-viable way to introduce mandatory Grade R.

Hearings on the Bill continue, with in-person hearings to be held in Paarl on the 15th of March, Saldanha Bay on the 22nd of March, and the 4th of April in Cape Town. Those who are unable to attend in-person hearings are able to make submissions by email (wasiema.hassenmoosa@wcpp.gov.za), by WhatsApp (060 250 6165), or via the online submission form (https://forms.office.com/r/hKVpkPGbbY).

DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Education Deidré Baartman says: ”It has been immensely gratifying to see our communities coming out in their numbers to call out the many weaknesses in this bill, and to stand up for our schools and for our children. We need better laws to make our education system better, but this bill is only there to give more unearned power to the national minister of education, and to take that power out of the hands of our communities. We look forward to the coming hearings in Paarl, Saldanha Bay and Cape Town, and we encourage all our residents to join us to discuss this vital matter.”