Issued by Ismail Joosub on behalf of the FW de Klerk Foundation on 7/05/2024


The FW de Klerk Foundation notes the passing of the Basic Education Laws Amendment (“BELA”) Bill by the National Council of Provinces (“NCOP”) on 2 May 2024, with approval from 8 of the 9 provinces. As the Bill advanced through the NCOP’s Select Committee on Education, significant amendments have been adopted, addressing critical concerns highlighted during the rigorous public consultations. 

One such progressive improvement, resulting from public engagement, is the empowerment of School Governing Bodies (“SGBs”) to decide language policies, as outlined in the new amendments adopted. Previously, clause 5 of the Bill vested decision-making authority to the head of department (“HOD”), a provision fiercely contested by the opposition. However, with the amended clause, SGBs are now entrusted with the responsibility of determining language policies, ensuring that the linguistic needs of the broader community are considered within the education district where the public school is situated.

Ismail Joosub, Legal Officer of Constitutional Programmes at the Foundation, highlights that, “Granting SGBs authority in deciding language policies ensures that educational institutions reflect the linguistic diversity of our nation, fostering inclusivity and cultural appreciation, in line with section 29(2) of the Constitution.” 

Additionally, clause 35 of the Bill, which pertains to the autonomy of homeschooling, underwent scrutiny during the consultation process. Despite objections, the parliamentary legal advisor expressed confidence in the constitutionality of the amended Bill, highlighting its alignment with existing legislation. 

However, the FW de Klerk Foundation remains mindful of the Bill’s potential impact due to the lack of planned funding for its implementation. Joosub, expressing concern, states, “The absence of provisions for financing the Bill’s implementation raises serious concerns about its practical implications for our children’s schooling.” 

Daniela Ellerbeck, Manager of Constitutional Programmes, underscores the Foundation’s stance against the BELA Bill’s proposed expansion of compulsory schooling without accompanying funding allocations, citing constitutional principles outlined in section 29(1)(a), which guarantees everyone the right to a basic education and section 195, which mandates the prudent and effective use of public resources. 

The Bill will now be considered by a sitting of the NCOP for further consideration before it ultimately goes to the President for his signature.

While the adoption of the BELA Bill amendments represents progress, the FW de Klerk Foundation urges continued engagement and scrutiny to ensure that educational reforms uphold constitutional rights and serve in the best interests of all South Africans.

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