Issued by Daniela Ellerbeck on behalf of the FW de Klerk Foundation on 16/05/2024


This morning Parliament passed the BELA Bill,” says Daniela Ellerbeck, the Foundation’s Constitutional Programmes Manager.

The Bill was subject to much public opposition due to its removal of powers from parents and giving such powers to the State. (This was done by removing the powers of School Governing Bodies (“SGBs”), of whom parents make up the majority of members). The power was given to the provincial education department. It also criminalises parents for non-compliance with their child’s compulsory school attendance from Grade R.

The Foundation is concerned that the Bill will infringe upon the right to education in an official language of your choice (section 29(2) of the Constitution), even as the State has failed to effectively expand the official languages that education is offered in. It is also concerned with how its criminalisation of parents for failing to send their children to school from Grade R, will disproportionately impact socio-economically vulnerable families. This begs the question whether criminalising parents is the right solution to address attendance issues in our schools,” says Ellerbeck.

The Bill, as passed today, continues to criminalise parents (with up to 12 months imprisonment) should they fail to enrol their child from Grade R (clause 2). It also grants the State the power to direct a public school to adopt more than one language of instruction (clause 5(c)). However, public hearings with the affected community are compulsory, allowing them to tell the State what they think about this decision. SGBs can also appeal against the State’s decision (clause 5(c)).

The Bill will now go to the President for assent.

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