Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill: public hearings
15 November 2022
Chairperson: Ms B Mbinqo-Gigaba (ANC)
The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education held round two of oral hearings on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA). Eight organisations and stakeholders presented oral submissions to the Committee. This included presenters from the Pestalozzi Trust, Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS), South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), SECTION27, Cause for Justice, Centre for Child Law, AfriForum, COSATU and the SA Institute of Race Relations. The concerns raised covered many policies and provisions in the Bill. These concerns related to the powers of the Minister and HODs, the admission and language policies of schools, the powers of school governing bodies, the sale of alcohol on school premises, making Grade R compulsory and the criminalisation of parents.
Common concerns raised included the admission and language policies, the powers of school governing bodies, the homeschooling provisions, alcohol sold on school premises and the criminalisation of parents.
The Department of Basic Education highlighted that the State had a responsibility in the Constitution to fulfil, promote and protect the right to primary education. Currently, the State cannot properly assess and monitor education provisions in the home environment. This created several challenges. Some of these learners could not be adequately placed when parents decided to register them in a public school because such learners could not produce assessment reports. It was also a challenge for provincial legislation departments to determine whether the education provided to learners at home was in the best interest of such learners. It was unclear as to whether such education was comparable to the teaching which was provided for in the Constitution. As a result, the Department needed to have a record. The Minister was responsible for education in the country and therefore needed to be accountable and have a history of learners registered for home education.
Members of the Committee discussed how the Bill would affect home educators. Members asked homeschool representatives if they felt the Department was discouraging home education and wanted more stringent conditions.
The Committee discussed the particular clause giving powers to HODs to determine or have the final say in language policy. Members noted a legal lacuna in the Bill that did not address online, blended learning and the different modalities of instruction. There was a framework that the Department had drafted, but that did not form part of this particular process. The Committee asked the presenters how they would incorporate online and blended learning into the Bill. Covid had taught that that was where the world was moving concerning education.
Undocumented learners, admission, and language policies were also some of the burning issues raised by Members.
The Chairperson asked the Members and those making presentations to introduce themselves. The Committee was engaging in the second week of oral submissions. The Committee was supposed to have heard nine organisations last week, but it had heard eight. The Committee would listen to presentations from the Pestalozzi Trust, FEDSAS, SADTU, SECTION27, Cause for Justice, Centre for Child Law, SA Institute for Race Relations, AfriForum and COSATU. If time allows, the Committee would hear the National Association of School Governing Bodies (NASGB) presentation at the end. The Committee will look at the time and try to accommodate them, as they could not present last week because of connectivity problems. The Committee had received their presentation.
Members had an opportunity to go through it. The Committee would allow them time to present. The Chairperson asked that the organisations that would contribute present within 20 to 30 minutes. Then if Members wanted to engage with the presentation, they would be allowed to do that. The main aim would be to hear what the organisations were saying. The Committee would enable the organisations to raise their opinions. The Committee was looking to have the public hearings early next year when Parliament opened. The Committee would move from one province to the other. After this one, it would be another phase where the Committee would engage. The Committee would then consolidate all the views it has received from the oral submissions and the public hearings. The Committee would make that consolidated report when the Committee was done in all the provinces. The information the Committee would make for Parliament would either result in the BELA Bill being endorsed or rejected. That was how the process would move. The Committee will meet next Tuesday and hear other organisations' views through oral submissions.
The Committee Secretariat read out the apologies.
Adoption of the agenda
Mr E Siwela (ANC) moved for the adoption of the agenda.
Ms N Adoons (ANC) seconded the adoption of the agenda.
The agenda was adopted.
Pestalozzi Trust Submission
Mr Bouwe van der Eems, Chairman and Treasurer of Pestalozzi Trust, made the presentation to the Committee. The presentation discussed the problems with the BELA Bill. These concerns included the restriction of curriculum choice, home visits, unfetter regulatory powers and an unjustified penalty clause. The presentation noted that there was no meaningful engagement on the BELA Bill. The BELA Bill 2017 was published by the Department without Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA). The presentation noted that parents would resist curriculum, assessment and home visits, resulting in conflict and court cases. The Pestalozzi Trust emphasised that clause 37 had no articulated purpose or basis in reach. Clause 37 had nothing to do with the meaning of the SA Schools Act, and it wanted the complete removal of clause 37.
Unjustified penalty clause
• The criminological opinion stated that the nature of the crime was administrative neglect. Imprisonment and unlimited fines would destroy families. The SEIA did not consider the number of prosecutions and costs.
• The legal opinion stated that imprisonment violates children's rights and does not consider the children's best interests. No evidence that it was an effective deterrent.
The Chairperson thanked the Pestalozzi Trust for its presentation.
Ms Adoons said that she had clarity-seeking questions. She had different thinking, hoping she could be provided with clarity. She mentioned clause 37, which the presenter had discussed. The Pestalozzi Trust proposed that it must be removed in its totality. Why did the Pestalozzi Trust think clause 37 prohibited parents from home-schooling their children? It spoke more about the registration of schooling rather than not having home-schooling. Why was the Pestalozzi Trust against the registration of children by the Department? The presentation noted that it had conducted research. Where was the breakdown? How did it undertake its research? What were the benefits and challenges of its study on home-schooling? What was its effective mechanism to ensure parents ensure that their children were in school? How should Government enforce this right?
Mr Siwela asked how Pestalozzi would propose that the Department manage the home-school registration process since the Department had a constitutional responsibility to ensure all school-going children were registered for school. What did Pestalozzi understand what registration meant and whether such functions did not require the Department? What effective mechanism provided parents that their children were in schooling? How should Government enforce the right to primary education?
Mr B Nodada (DA) said that there needed to be some sense of accountability based on the responsibility of the Department to make sure that despite what choice and range was available in education for children. There needed to be some form of monitoring to ensure education. According to the Pestalozzi Trust, what type of monitoring and assessment would be appropriate for parents who decided to provide their children with home education? What mechanism would it suggest was put in place? He discussed registration. The presentation provided reasons why registration was a hindrance in providing home education. What were the main reasons why parents did not register their children? The Members wanted a better understanding of why there was a challenge in terms of that clause. The presentation also discussed the criminalisation of parents, which is related to another section within the BELA Bill. It was criminalisation because if parents did not take their children to school, the SA Schools Act indicated that a parent could be imprisoned for a year. He did not see a reference to that particular clause in the submission. He wanted to get the Pestalozzi Trust's view on that. The department's reason and rationale for increasing the punishment from six months to one year were to curb dropouts.
The Department was trying to keep more children in school. It was still puzzling to him. He wanted to hear the views of the Pestalozzi Trust on that issue. Where would the Pestalozzi Trust suggest that the legislation around homeschooling be located? Was it supposed to be found in the SA Schools Act? The presentation mentioned and made a few suggestions that there was no consultation for home education and that there needed to be a law in place. Some proposals have been made. Where would that legislation be located? What would that legislation look like? So that when the Members did deliberations, they would not deliberate on things they did not know. Some of the questions he had asked were around the socio-economic assessment and the research around it, which had not been provided to the Committee for the Members to make a meaningful determination on whether the legislation proposed around home-schooling education was a success or was hindering that. It was known in South Africa that good schools were limited. That was why parents decided to take their children to private education or the values and principles in those schools the parents might not subscribe to. There might be a different belief system. Parents might choose other avenues to educate their children. It became necessary for the Committee to understand this information so that when the Committee deliberated on the regulation of education in the BELA Bill, they would have a complete understanding of its components of it. He noted the constitutional responsibility that the Department had.
Dr W Boshoff (FF+) said that the present school system resulted from industrialisation in the 19th century. It was a compulsion by the state that said it had to round up the children and get them somewhere where they would be safe. For years they were vulnerable; they had to be under some kind of care. Children were taught literacy and numeracy because they would be better workers in factories. That then evolved into a very sophisticated school system. When he was in school, he heard of the idea of homeschooling. It was called compulsory education and not compulsory schooling. He did not know what the difference was. That was how saturated their thoughts were that formal education and school were precisely the same. Much in the world had changed. Since the 90s, nobody has gone to prison again for home-schooling, although they were intimated in several ways. COSATU said the Bill wanted to limit its right to picket and toyi-toyi out of the school. He wondered what the Department would tell them because the last time people said that it wanted to limit the right to self-educate their children, the answer was that it was about demonstrations out of schools. He wondered if COSATU would provide that answer. He discussed extra-school education. That would be a better term because he was not speaking just about home-schooling, online schooling or cottage schools. If two families combined their home schools, it was an independent school. It was not a home school anymore. It ceased to be a home school. It was ridiculous. He thought that it should be referred to as extra-school education. Over the past 30 years, it has moved from the margins of education to the mainstream of education. If anyone had doubts about that, then the two years of totalitarian government during Covid showed that exactly. Where parents defied the law, this was part of the mainstream now. The Committee, Parliament, Government, Department, and the direction needed to reflect that. That was basically what was discussed in this presentation. The presentation referred to making homeschooling impossible.
In contrast, one could not make it illegal. He had once said that as a joke, and now he realised it was real. He just saw the requirements for home-schooling, and it seemed like there was an idea to make it impossible. What was happening in KZN? The presentation referred to something there but did not elaborate. He discussed dividing the leading player from the referee. He believed it would be an ombud or a regulator. For a long time, people would ask statutory questions about power distribution to Eskom, but it was not. It was NERSA. South Africa had that in power. It did not have that in education. Was that what the Pestalozzi Trust was referring to? He did not quite get what the Pestalozzi Trust was directed at. What would the Pestalozzi Trust's view be on people who wanted to ditch education altogether? People used fictional home-schooling as a smokescreen. He had seen it. In quite sophisticated societies, people did that. He believed that as a collective representing home-schooling, the Pestalozzi Trust would need to absolve themselves from that in some way. Registration would be the obvious way to do so, but it did not like the idea of registration. He was interested in the Pestalozzi Trust's response.
The Chairperson read out the input from Ms Sukers. Was she correct in reading in the presentation that the Department was in favour of discouraging home education and wanted stringent conditions? She asked if the Pestalozzi Trust could read that section again. This was alarming. What did home educators feel about this? It looked like the Department was going to war with them. What aspects of the BELA Bill were stringent? This was very important for Ms Sukers’ constituency as it was the view of the Christian home-schooling mothers.
The Chairperson noted the presentation stated that the preamble of the BELA Bill did not include home education. On page two of the preamble, home education was mentioned there. Apart from the Pestalozzi trust advocating for home education, what other contributions had the Pestalozzi Trust made to ensure that home education was regulated by law and was regulated to benefit the home education sector? How many home education learners were there in each province? Why was the Pestalozzi Trust resisting registering or being held under the BELA Bill? In the late 90s, the phenomenon of home education was established. What laws regulated the provision of home education? Or was it a sector that was self-regulated? She was also interested in when the Pestalozzi Trust was formed.
Adv Shalili Misser, Chief Director: Legal and Legislative Services, Department of Basic Education, said that the State had a responsibility in the Constitution to fulfil, promote and protect the right to primary education. Currently, the State cannot properly assess and monitor education provisions in the home environment. This created several challenges. Some of these learners could not be adequately placed when parents decided to register them in a public school because such learners could not produce assessment reports. It was also a challenge for provincial legislation departments to determine whether the education provided to learners at home was in the best interest of such learners. It was unclear as to whether such education was comparable to the teaching which was provided for in the Constitution. As a result, the Department needed to have a record. The Minister was responsible for education in the country and therefore needed to be accountable and have a history of learners registered for home education. In January 2020, the Minister engaged with the Pestalozzi Trust on home education. The version that was published in the BELA Bill was a version which had been agreed to after discussions with the Minister. The Minister emphasised that she welcomed home education because it relieved the pressure on the education system in schools. It was not to restrict and make home education impossible. That had never been the intention. It was not the intention of the Department.
Ms Phumelele Ngema, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, Constitutional and Legal Services Office, said she would add nothing and deal with issues later. She noted the SEIAS impact assessment and would make a presentation to the Committee on that matter before the Committee began its clause-by-clause deliberations.
Mr Neeresh Badal, Representative Gauteng Association for Homeschooling, Pestalozzi Trust, discussed homeschool monitoring. Parents should be held accountable for caring for their children, including education. However, monitoring should not infringe on parents' rights to choose the type of education that is best for their children. Monitoring should either be aligned with the parents' curriculum or be curriculum-independent. The Pestalozzi Trust did not believe that most good parents should be burdened with financial and administrative load to perform regular formal assessments. Monitoring should be done on a contingency basis where there is a suspicion that parents are neglecting their children. As home-schooling parents, they choose to home-school their children because they want the best for them.
Homeschooling emphasises the growth and development of children. Home-schooling stimulates minds, helps children to discover interests and develop interactive growth as young adults to experience life. Every parent of the current home-schooling era wanted to fulfil their child's higher education and was actively involved in their child's interests. Homeschooling offered children an excellent opportunity to harness their unique qualities and goods—teaching like this where children were learning new information and skills. Home education exposes children to more memorable experiences. It was an education that would give economic success to individuals and society. Parents who decided to home-school were committed to the task. Home-schooled children ended up scoring higher on academic tests than those in traditional schools. He provided an example of this in Gauteng. The academic performances of home-schooling learners were analysed for Grades 3, 6 and 9 for mathematics and English. The majority of the home-schooled learners were scoring marks in the upper quartile of 70% plus.
Ms Lebohang Ngcobo, Homeschooling Mother, Pestalozzi Trust, said she was a mother and spoke from experience. She noted that South Africa was a diverse nation. Her daughter was currently writing her matric exams. It was possible to home-school and had their children reach matric. She had been home-schooling for ten years. She had never registered. Home-schooling parents did not get enough. They would record, and then it just ended there. There was no interaction with the Government. The curriculum home-schooling parents chose was not the one the Department used. The Department used CAPS, but home-schooling parents had other preferences. The home-schooled parents were not against public or private education. The parents just had a different selection. In her case, it upheld her faith and belief system. That was one of the reasons why she did not send her children to school. Their focus was not limited to academics. They endeavoured to nurture, teach and train their children in the best way possible. They hoped that as they did that it would benefit the country. Home-schooling allowed parents to engage with their children and to encourage curiosity and wonder. They made learning a deeper pursuit and a journey to fulfil the children's education with limitless possibilities. Homeschoolers believed that the world was their classroom. When they educated their children, they did so holistically. They did not only focus on the academia of the child. They developed the emotional aspects of the child. They created a spiritual child. They believed that this was an excellent opportunity to teach their children.
Ms Karin van Oostrum, Executive Officer, Pestalozzi Trust, discussed the research done by the Pestalozzi Trust. The Pestalozzi Trust commissioned a research agency and had analysis available that it could share with all the Members. They would share it with the Members. She noted that one of the suggestions had been that an additional educational Bill is made that sets out all the overarching educational principles and modalities that were not catered for in the present BELA Bill. That was their suggestion. She discussed the research on registration. It had found that many homeschoolers were not registered. It has been an immense problem during the past few years. She had started homeschooling in 1992 before it was even legalised. Since it was legalised in 1996, the Pestalozzi Trust has tried for about three years to try and get registered. It had not received any communication from the Department. That had become even worse. The research found that many parents simply never heard back from the Department. The Pestalozzi trust helped some parents to get registered. A serious problem developed in KZN. Many parents applied for registration there, and it was just turned down without any reason. The applications were precisely within the boundaries of the law and policy, but no reason was given for that. The Pestalozzi trust was trying to assist them in trying to get registered.
Mr Shaun Green, Trustee of Pestalozzi Trust, said that a Member had raised that schooling today was a construction of the 19th century. That was 200 years ago. Part of it was to round up the children so that they could be better workers in factory environments. South Africa had inherited that. That was part of the mismatch that was currently found. He noted the old saying 'from unity comes strength'. That changed with the changing of the dispensation in the country. The word that was changed in that was diversity. He responded to the question about home education's benefits and difficulties. He noted that broadly in South African society home education could accommodate diversity. If one looked around the room, there were a diverse number of people. This meant that many different problems could be addressed. He noted that if everyone were forced to do the same curriculum, everyone would be the same. A future should be created where there is respect for diversity that the country was supposed to be respecting. Another benefit was the ability to solve problems creatively. There was a shortage of entrepreneurship in the country. If the government wanted to see entrepreneurship, then the space needed to be made available, even for parents to make mistakes along the way with their children. That was where creativity came from. If one looks at the history of entrepreneurship, many experiments took place in people's homes. He noted that one of the difficulties with home education was socialisation, but not in the way people think. In school, there was a bell. The bell indicated that the break was over. At home, he had to tell people they could not visit every day. Socialisation was not a problem in the way people using think. It was the other way around. There was often too much visiting going on. They found that to be a challenge. He wanted to convey the main point that there should be respect for diversity. That led to the question of why did this legislation have home education in it? Schools, by their nature, struggled to accommodate diversity. Home education, by its nature, is adapted to diversity. It needed legislation that allowed for that diversity.
Mr van der Eems said there was still some doubt about whether the Minister was optimistic about home education. It was clear that the establishment wanted to make home education impossible.
Ms van Oostrum responded to the question of how many homeschoolers there were. It was a question they received frequently. There was no research which showed precisely the number of homeschoolers. Often the Department used the number of homeschoolers registered with them, but only a few managed to pass through that narrow gate and managed to get registered. At this stage, demographic registration research was needed. The numbers mentioned varied between 100 000 and 500 000. The Pestalozzi Trust did not have any data on that. One of the challenges parents experienced in getting registered was that communication with the Department was not happening. It was a very elaborate registration procedure. What the Pestalozzi trust would like to see was a much simpler registration procedure like a notification.
Homeschoolers would not mind notifying the Department that they were home-schooling. To pass through the current registration procedure was highly challenging, especially if the home visit was included. Many parents are uncomfortable with inviting everybody into their homes nowadays, which is an invasion of privacy. Children also found it very challenging, and they felt as if they were going to be judged. That was one of the problems.
Another problem was the curriculums that were used. In the home-schooling environment, there was a wide variety of curricula, from a very structured curriculum to a much less structured curriculum. There was a wide variety. The challenge was to assess these learners according to how they were studying and each one's capabilities. It did not have the answer, but something different must be thought out at this stage. She noted that the world was diversifying exponentially, and people were still stuck in this old-school model, which was not working. That was why many children were dropping out of the system and into homeschooling, cottage schools and smaller academies. Parents just wanted to make sure that their children were educated.
Ms Liete van der Eems, Representative, Pestalozzi Trust, responded to the questions about the criminalisation of parents. This provision was contrary to the best interests of the children. The possibility of imprisonment of parents or caregivers undermines the child's right to family and parental care under the Constitution. If this provision were successfully implemented, it would compromise the right to family care. The incarceration of a parental figure would result in the loss of parental support for the children, as the parent was supposed to ensure the child's well-being. Families provide a sense of belonging and security to the child. This was a sacred space which should not be disrupted easily, especially not because of the actions of a parent who was aiming for the better education of their children. There was also the reality of many parents who may struggle to pay a fine and did not have the funds to mount a robust legal defence, especially those who stood to be prosecuted under this amendment. They would likely be poorer parents with little alternatives to secure their children's futures. If the offending parent was the head of a single-parent household, then the injustices wrought by this proposed amendment were intensified even more. It was likely that the amendments to the BELA Bill would operate unduly harshly against the poorest and most vulnerable in society, particularly female caretakers and mothers who had a unique, heightened duty to protect. She discussed what the alternatives could be to the penalty clause. There were three components. If the parents were failing to attend to their children's educational needs on account of poverty, illness or other socio-economic barriers, then the focus needed to be on the capacitation of the parents rather than punishment. If the parents failed to attend to their children's educational needs through neglect or inability to care for the child, then the parents needed to be supported to care for the child. If they could not do so, then the remedies of the Children's Act should come into play. If the parents failed to comply with the procedural requirements for home education but were educating their children at home, then those parents must be guided through the process. Punishment was an entirely inappropriate solution to the underlying issue in each of these circumstances. The appropriate remedy should be imposed rather than punishment. The matter should be referred to the Children's Court when a parent does not send their child to school. This is because the Children's Court specialised in the issues that affected the child. The court's purpose was to champion the rights involving children and to take care of children. The Children's Court also had extensive jurisdiction over the protection and well-being of a child. Education was included within the definition of care in the Children's Act. The Children's Court had the power to instruct a person who had failed to fulfil a statutory duty towards a child to appear before a court and give reasons for the failure. The court also had the power to instruct an organ of the state to assist a child in obtaining access to a public service to which they were entitled. Should the parent fail to comply with the statutory obligation, the Children's Court had vast powers to decide and propose a remedy that was in the child's best interest.
Essentially, penalties were not the solution. New and effective policies and regulations should be pursued, which need to be based on a thorough understanding of the home education phenomena in South Africa and abroad. The procedure required to comply with the Constitution and needed to keep the best interest of the child at its uppermost. At the same time, it was taking complete account of the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved in the children's education. The policy needed to be educationally enlightened and forward-looking, and it needed to achieve a convincing level of acceptance among home educators. It must be implementable by the Department within realistic resource constraints, and it must be able to go for review and correction in light of new and evolving educational developments.
Mr van der Eems responded to the question of where this legislation should be. The Children's Act could accommodate home education. The Children's Act had all the components to regulate home education. The problem was that it did not accommodate all these other emerging modalities. There had been some discussion on that. There was no easy answer to that. One of the models that the Pestalozzi Trust was thinking of and proposing was the idea of an independent regulator. The independent regulator would regulate all the different types of education. That was one option. The Children's Act was another option. A lot of research still needed to be done. There was no easy silver bullet that would solve everything. He noted that Dr Boshoff had spoken about splitting the roles of player and referee. He provided the example of the independent regulator in the telecommunications sector. There needed to be something similar for education—those roles must be split. Officials should not have a vested interest in the school system. Adv Misser referred to a meeting that the Pestalozzi Trust had with the Minister. Adv Misser was correct. He had the book with him that they had submitted to the Minister. At that meeting, it had already proposed moving section 51 out of the SA Schools Act. He responded to the question about when the Trust was created. It was established in 1998. The new dispensation adopted the Constitution, and then the SA Schools Act was passed in 1996. There was a campaign by the Association for Home Education lobbying to make provision for home education in the SA Schools Act, which then led to the insertion of section 51. The Association at that time realised that the officials doing the registration would not be informed about home education. The probability of conflict was high, and therefore an organisation was needed to protect these parents. What was the motivation behind the establishment of the Pestalozzi Trust?
Mr Badal said that in 2020/2021, education was hit just as hard as any other sector in South Africa with the Covid-19 pandemic. It was an unexpected disruption known as a black swan event. The idea of the black swan theory was that the future is mainly made by things that no one saw coming. It described events that come as a surprise. These events were unprecedented at a particular point in time until they happened. A black swan event was a negative occurrence characterised as low probability but a high impact. There was the retrospective view that those involved should have been better prepared. How does one prepare for education to survive these occurrences and grow stronger?
Given that one was unlikely to accurately predict the cause of the following significant systems shock, the best approach would be to focus on resilience and antifragility. Home education and other alternative forms of schooling thrived during these times. Given the uncertainty of the future, it would be wise to create an educational environment that made provision for antifragile forms of education.
The Chairperson said she just needed some clarity. The discussion document that the Pestalozzi Trust handed out this morning had a disclaimer. It was a discussion document, but it was not for publication for general distribution. She noted that this was a public space.
Mr van der Eems said it was in the public domain per definition. It was from 2015 that it said not for publication and general distribution, and it had just put that disclaimer at the bottom.
The Chairperson thanked the Pestalozzi Trust for its submission. The Committee had noted the concerns raised on the Bill. The Committee said the request would form part of the Committee's report that it was going to make.
Dr Jaco Deacon, CEO, FEDSAS, made the presentation to the Committee. The presentation discussed whether the proposed amendments would improve the experience and quality of children's education. The presentation discussed the proposed amendments that would not contribute to the spirit of the objectives of the SA Schools Act. The presentation highlighted the proposed amendment that needed to be addressed and how FEDSAS proposed to address these shortcomings. The proposed amendments that FEDSAS raised concerns about related to the HOD's powers concerning the admission policy, the HOD's management concerning the language policy, disclosure of financial interest by members of an SGB, central procurement, and the submission of quarterly reports on all income and expenditure.
Dr Boshoff said that the presentation of FEDSAS was apparent. He had one concern that he had picked up with the Committee's previous engagements with different stakeholders. He noted that when Mr Moroatshehla responded to one of the earlier stakeholders, he said that South Africa settled in 1996 for a specific educational dispensation, but South Africa had moved forward. Mr Moroatshehla asked that stakeholder how what it wanted would take South Africa to greater unity. That was in connection with the language of learning and instruction. He tried to put it on the table that there was a fundamental difference. Some people said that decision-making in education needed to be decentralised to the local and community levels. By community, he meant the school community. FEDAS embodied that. There could be school governing bodies all over the country, but they needed to liaise with each other and get advice on how to deal with certain things. The role the Pestalozzi Trust had played for home schools was the role FEDAS had played for school governing bodies. It enabled and empowered SGBs to occupy the space created by law. It was important for bodies like FEDSAS and the Pestalozzi Trust to keep occupying that space because there was a pushback. He believed that in politics, especially in a country like South Africa, every generation had its settlements. One could not refer back to the settlement of 1994 or 1996. It was like the 12 apostles crafted the Constitution in 1994; nobody could question that again, and everything needed to refer back to that. If one continued to do that, the pressure on the Constitution would increase. He noted that for the new dispensation to get into motion, certain concessions had to be made, but South Africa was moving forward. Members needed to be mindful of not departing from precisely the same place. He noted that one of the presentations said there should be a devolution of power but decentralisation. What was the difference? Would FEDSAS suggest having some kind of baseline assessment to say that these schools' governing bodies functioned to a certain level which entitled it to a certain level of autonomy? Then the level of independence would depend on the results of governance, learning and teaching. In the end, governance was an instrument for learning and teaching.
Mr Nodada said that he wanted to explore four points. Part of the rationale of the Department was that 80% of SGBs were dysfunctional. Because the SGBs were dysfunctional, the Department said they had to take away the powers to determine admission and language policy. This rationale did not consider the perspective put forward in the presentation that there were functional SGBs where parents wanted to contribute to their children's education. How would FEDSAS respond to the Department's dilemma that 80% of SGBs were dysfunctional? SGBs were supposed to run the governance of that school to contribute to the quality of education. How would FEDSAS advise the Department to deal with that in legislation? He discussed clause 4(d). Where did FEDSAS believe the final authority should rest in making the final decision on that particular clause? What was the reason or rationale behind that, considering that an amendment was proposed to it? There were about 23 000 public schools. Roughly 1200 of them were Afrikaans single medium schools. About 6900 of them were English single medium schools. In many cases, parents would pass schools along the route to go and find schools that would provide good quality education.
In many cases, these were single-medium schools. He had asked the Minister a question and gotten a complete list of single mediums and the breakdown. The majority of those schools provided quality. His parents would instead leave the area they were from and drive past about 20 schools to go to a school that might not offer his language of instruction so that he could acquire a quality education. Part of the rationale behind these clauses was for the HOD to determine the language policy of that particular school because the schools that the parents chose that provided quality education might not offer a specific language of instruction. The 14 000 odd schools with dual medium instruction might not be at the standard parents preferred. This particular clause of giving the powers to HODs to determine or have the final say in language policy was because of this dilemma. What would then be the alternative? What would be the solution? There was this misconception that if all schools were made dual medium instruction then that would solve the problem of quality education. He did not believe that. He wanted to hear FEDSAS's view on that. The presentation mentioned aligning the finances of each provincial department and having a uniform approach to that. What exactly was meant by that? He noted the Committee's engagement with stakeholders in the sector. Home education groups mentioned issues around decentralisation and choice. He wanted to understand FEDSA's rationale in terms of that. The presentation also noted blended learning. There was a legal lacuna in the Bill that did not address online, blended learning and the modalities that were spoken about earlier. There was a framework that the Department had drafted, but that did not form part of this particular process. How would FEDSAS see that happening? Covid had taught that that was where the world was moving concerning education. Parents were not taking their children to online and blended spaces of learning. What would that look like, and where would that be in the legislation?
Mr Siwela said that the presenter went to great lengths to talk about the power of the HOD. The HOD would be considering the policies which the SGBs constituted. What was the basis of managing that approval by the HOD to centralise power as SGBs developed admissions policies? There were clearly defined provisions under which the HOD could intervene after consulting the SGBs. The HOD could only intervene when parents and students were negatively affected by policies adopted by the SGB. FEDS believed that the HOD would not be in consultation with the SGBs. That was not necessarily the case. The final authority was for the Minister's consideration. He discussed the issue of language. The presentation seemed to say that the proposed amendment targeted a particular language. He found that very interesting. Whose perception was that? The presentation spoke about perception. The presentation seemed to suggest that the proposed amendment was trying to target Afrikaans as a language. People needed to recognise the history of the nation and its spatial inequalities. What was the perspective of FEDSAS on the possible new admissions policy to exclude different ethnic groups?
Ms van Zyl said that FEDSAS's asked whether the proposed amendment would include the experience and quality of education children received. She noted that in the written document, the comments were made about the exemption from paying school fees. Many schools struggled with maintaining norms and standards because they were not being appropriately paid and were not getting the allocation they should be getting. Did FEDSAS think that would lead to quality education? What did FEDSAS believe that the backlog would be for the admission and language policies to be considered by the HOD with 23 000 schools? With the closure of schools and the admission policies, what did FEDSAS think of the scholar transfer issue? Who would fund that? Where would that come from? What was the solution for that?
The Chairperson asked why FEDSAS thought the proposed amendments did not contribute to the spirit of education. She discussed the HOD's powers concerning the admissions policy. What would FEDSAS suggest? The reality was that sometimes the HOD was required to make some interventions because the SGB would use gatekeeping. The SGB would measure learners' admission and use a single medium language to keep the learners out of the school. That was the reality of what was happening. She discussed the proposed amendment related to the SGB member's disclosure of financial interest. Why would the SGB not want to disclose their financial interests? Many organisations also raised the issue of economic interests last week. She wanted to hear what FEDSAS' view on it was.
Ms Adoons discussed FEDSAS's submission on clause 1(m). Should that amendment instead not be included in the regulation rather than the Act? The presentation noted that for most people, every child was not receiving a quality education. What evidence did FEDSAS base its assertions of the majority on? She discussed the existing inequalities in schools and the different levels of functionality. What benefit would unions offer to the process? All those present wanted what was best for every child in the country. The first presenters believed home-schooling for their children would be the best for their education. She noted that teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence went up in 2020 and 2021 during Covid. It was something that the country needed to address and come together on. Children are required to develop in the best way for the country.
Adv Misser said that the concerns raised were similar concerning the admission and language policies. FEDSAS had raised court judgements to justify the partnership model, which the Department agreed with. However, it needed to be accepted that challenges were experienced with the current model. She noted the judgements that were referred to. Those particular judgements also indicated that determining schools' language policy was a devolved function or responsibility which came to the governing body from the Constitution. However, even though it was a devolved function of the SGB, it was not the exclusive reserve of the governing body. The devolution of powers did not mean that the SGB's right to decide the language policy was absolute. This power was subject to the Constitution, the SA Schools Act and any provincial law, as stated in paragraph 81 of the judgement. The HOD was not precluded from intervening on reasonable grounds to ensure that a school's admission and language policy paid adequate heed to section 29(2) of the Constitution. Because of the challenges the sector was experiencing in using these policies to exclude many learners, this particular amendment had been made. She discussed the disclosure of financial interests. There was a conflict-of-interest clause within the Act. The reason for including economic interests disclosed that the conflict of interest clause was not compelling.
The Department was still finding a lot of corruption regarding tenders for a school. Hence, it needed another mechanism to ensure that there was good governance, accountability and transparency regarding SGBs. She discussed central procurement. The particular amendment in the BELA Bill said, 'the HOD may in consultation'. This was discretionary power. It was there to ensure that the Department got a better deal in terms of procurement. It did come with its challenges, but she was sure that those challenges could be overcome. She discussed the submission of the quarterly reports. That was to fix the financial mismanagement and to ensure that there was good governance. The Department needed to ensure accountability from schools. She discussed the definition of 'meeting'. She understood that the landscape of meetings had changed. There were now virtual meetings. However, the Department did not think this required a definition in the Act. It should be discretionary so that schools can determine how they want to hold their meetings. She discussed blended learning. The country and the globe were evolving to include virtual learning. As indicated, the Department was still developing its policy position on that particular aspect. There would be another round of amendments, if it were necessary, to the Schools Act. It would not be reflected in this specific amendment. Once the Department had developed a proper policy position and consulted with stakeholders, it would be legislated.
Dr Deacon discussed the section 21 functions where the schools could manage themselves. Instead of over-policing and over-servicing those schools, those schools should be given more responsibility and powers on appointments. Those schools should be given the money and be allowed to report at the end of the year. The schools could manage themselves. Those additional resources could then go to schools that could not self-help. In terms of the Schools Act, schools could apply for section 21 functions. The MEC could allocate that to schools provided they could fulfil certain functions. The MEC in the Eastern Cape said that he would give these powers to certain schools without assisting the ability of those schools to do that. That was an oversight problem by the MEC. That should still be utilised to help schools. If a school was struggling, the Department could provide resources to assist. The gap was getting bigger because the one size fits all model was not working. The Department needed to look at the communities and schools that could do it, and the Department could provide sufficient support to those who struggled. He was sure that Mr Moroatshehla would support that. He noted that the educational system was moving backwards. If powers were given to governing bodies, then there was an obligation to monitor that SGBs used those powers. He responded to how to fix the 80% of dysfunctional schools. He would do no justice to that question if he gave a short answer. It was a complex thing, but for a start, the correct people needed to be in the right positions. The Department could not give blank powers to SGBs if they could not fulfil those functions. In some provinces, the SGBs wanted those powers without knowing what to do. To close the gap, there needed to be training and development. It was known who the non-performing schools were. The Department needed to work closely with those school communities. The Department was supposed to help those SGBs to get out of the mud. That was the only way to get out by providing on-site support to those schools, not by taking those powers away. If schools struggled and SGBs did not fulfil their duties, then the Department could take away all of their functions and powers in terms of the Schools Act. Not by legislating the exception. The worst possible drafting what when one is drafted for the exception. The exceptions need to be dealt with through the clauses already in the Act. He discussed section 4(d). There was an appeal process. If someone was unsatisfied with the admission, they could appeal to the MEC. That was the way to go. If someone was not satisfied there was an appeal, and then the MEC could overrule the decision by the school. It was an administrative decision that could be challenged. The checks and balances were there. He noted that for every ten schools, one would be Afrikaans. The closest school was supposed to be the best, but that had failed. For some reason, school labour laws were not used to get rid of poor performance. New plans were tried every single year, but the schools kept the same people there. If SGBs were the gatekeepers and kept children out of the school, then section 9 of the Constitution said that the admission policy was clear. Then the powers should be taken away from those SGBs, but this was not the case for most SGBs. He was frustrated when people said SGBs did that. In which provinces was it happening? Why were the HODs not doing their job? Why were HODs not dealing with those SGBs' violations? FEDSAS would not support those SGBs in any right. The language was not the issue. It was capacity. Capacity to have space in schools and capacity to provide quality education. That was why learners moved to other schools. It was not because of language but because of quality education. The capacity of schools, the physical spaces, and the capacity of teachers to provide quality education needed to be addressed. This Act would not contribute to the quality of education at all. He discussed the issue of finances. There needed to be uniform guidelines or regulations for managing school fees. There needed to be one set for all nine provinces so the SGB would know that it could only open a single bank account and use a debit card. That would be the parameters. Currently, every single province is regulated differently. Some would allow credit cards. Some would say that it should be paid into a bank account. Some had stupid ideas on finances. Experts on a national level needed to draft the policies. The management of finances needed to be done on a school level, and then the powers needed to be devolved to a grassroots level. He discussed the blending learning model. He noted that there was an opportunity. Physical teaching at the schools was not the only model. It needed to be opened, and then it could be regulated. It would then be an administrative process. The law needed to make provisions for the administration of blended learning. There were regulations on compulsory school attendance, but this process should influence it. He discussed the consultation process. He noted that there was a big difference between after-consultation and in-consultation. The partner model sought the in-consultation process. He noted that most HODs abused their power and were simply instructive. FEDSAS supported active engagement, but it often did not see that. The final say was with the Department. The HOD would decide which mitigated the other partners' obligations and responsibilities. In consultation was something different. If the Department and HOD were unhappy with the policy, they should not strong-arm the other stakeholders. In FEDSAS' experience at a grassroots level, the HODs strong-armed schools and bullied school principals. He discussed jurisprudence and the different court cases. The official would intimidate and strong-arm the school nine times out of ten. The problem with multilingual schools was that there was no proper funding model for dual medium education. Many problems would be alleviated if it could get a proper funding model for dual medium instruction. In most schools, the SGB must subsidise the second language. The SGBs often struggled to make ends meet. There needed to be a funding model. He noted that the quintiles were outdated. One could either pay school fees or could not pay school fees. Those should be the two categories in schools. If the school made an exception for a parent, then there needed to be compensation for the school. At least the same amount that was sent to a no-fee school. In most provinces, schools would get less than 5% back of what they had the right to at the end of the year. There were 23 000 schools. If the Department could not even respond to a single letter within seven days, then he did not think that the Department would be able to respond within 60 days. Even if it was extended to 300 days, he still did not think the Department would be able to do that. The Department would be set up for failure, and there would be automatic approval. That was not a good thing. It should be kept as is. He discussed scholar transport. The problem was that the Department did not pay the service providers. It was not a transport problem; it was a payment problem. It was a person who did not do their work. He had not seen a single official dismissed for not paying the transport provider for letting children down. Good systems were in place for most provinces for scholar transport, and the service providers were there. It was about bad management in the provincial departments. He responded to the Chairperson's question. The State would have the final say. It would decide what would happen and who it would appoint. In public schools, the community should take full ownership. During the school holidays, it was not an obligation for the State to police vandalisation. The community took responsibility for the school. The State was taking the ownership of parents away. FEDSAS' model of a public school was community involvement. Who had the most to lose from bad education, except the child? It was the parent. Communities needed to take responsibility for the child, and that potential had not yet been unlocked. After the consultation, the State had the final say and made up its mind. Consultation meant that the State was actively going to engage in a meaningful consensus-seeking process. That was cooperative governance, with partners who really weighed in. He discussed gatekeeping. The language was not an issue. Quality education was the issue. That was what needed to be addressed. If SGBs used language to gatekeep, then the Department needed to get the names of those schools and use the Schools Act. There were legal mechanisms to deal with discrimination, like an appeal process. He discussed SGB finances. If FEDSAS could get the direct connection between the reason for the disclosure and it could be connected to the person, it was within the ambit of the POPI Act. If the Department said, SGB members had to present all their finances, for what? If the SGB members were not doing any business with the school. They were just parents paying school fees. That was an infringement on the parents' right to privacy. That was an infringement on the POPI Act. He noted that the amendment to clause 26 was more than enough to deal with that. He agreed with Adv Misser that there was a problem. He emphasised that laws should not be made for the exception. Use section 26. Use section 22. Use section 35. It was already there. The Department allowed the people to remain in the system while there were legal mechanisms to deal with them. He responded to the question of required documentation. The required documents should be defined. What was the Department looking for? It was more about ID documentation. The required documentation should be ID documentation. There were also undocumented learners. Those clauses needed to kick in to provide assistance and support to the family to get the necessary documentation. The Bill needed to be more explicit on the required documentation. He discussed quality education. How would that be determined? There was a failure in provincial departments. At the end of the year, the money for learning and teaching was not paid to schools. This was a failure. FEDSAS had not seen appointments of educators in the Eastern Cape and KZN. Money from schools needed to be used to approach the courts to force the HODs to do their work. Look at the matric results. The Members had been to schools during its oversight visits. He wanted to see the Members' scorecards. Was that really what the children were worth? He discussed State involvement. The State should be involved. The State was one of the senior partners, but it was a partner. It was not the owner, and it was not a totalitarian state. The State needed to activate cooperative governance in all nine provinces in all the schools. It was shocking to see parents move all over the country to get placements for their children. It was a capacity problem. It was not language. He discussed teenage pregnancies. How many schools offered extra-curricular activities? What was offered to the children when they were out of school? It was not the school's responsibility. The school had extra-curricular activities, yes. However, communities needed to look within themselves and ask if that was the kind of society they wanted to build. Learner pregnancies were not a school issue. Schools did not provide the rooms and beds, yet they needed to deal with the outcomes. It was a community problem. These things needed to be spoken about openly. He disagreed that there did not need to be a definition of 'meeting'. Some provincial departments simply refused to accept online or hybrid meeting minutes. Some provincial departments had decided that they would not accept an online AGM. It needed to be made easier for parties to engage instead of leaving it in the hands of the politicians to decide. He thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present.
The Chairperson thanked FEDSAS for its submission. The Committee noted the request, and the Committee would deal with everything once it had concluded the process.
Mr Jonavon Rustin, Western Cape Provincial Secretary, SADTU, made the presentation. The presentation discussed several clauses. This included clause 2(b) related to the parent's responsibility. Clause 2(c) about wilful disruption, interruption, hindering and obstruction of school activities. Clause 4 as it relates to learner admissions. Clause 8 as it relates to the sale of alcohol on school premises. Clause 5 as it relates to the language policy.
Sale of alcohol on school premises
• There should be a complete prohibition of dangerous objects, alcoholic drinks and illegal drugs on school premises. Remove this clause.
• An exception should only be made in the case where such items are required as part of demonstration purposes as part of an approved programme and where a competent authority has already authorised possession of such things, and the items are handled under very controlled circumstances, and clear protocols for the handling of such are in place.
• This clause seeks to amend section 3 1 of the SASA to provide that school attendance is compulsory from Grade R and no longer only from Grade 1.
• SADTU welcomes this long overdue amendment.
• The EEA must be amended in line with this amendment to ensure that Grade R teachers are employed in terms of the EEA and that provision is made in the education budget and PPN for Grade R teachers.
Mr Nodada discussed the support for Grade R being compulsory. It was a shared common principle. He noted the amendment of the EEA. His question was directed to the Department so that the Members could get some perspective on the matter. As much as the principle for Grade R education was supported, there was a constitutional implication that it needed to be reasonably implementable. At this point, National Treasury had not returned to the Department to say how much Grade R would cost. There was no full determination as to how much an amendment of the EEA would cost. In response to one of his questions last week, the Department said it would cost R1.7 billion. That was inclusive of the remuneration of educators and building new infrastructure. If there was no determination as to how much this would cost and it was legislated and pointed into law, without that determination of whether it would be reasonable, practically implementable, then that would be a constitutional dilemma. Was the Department not in treacherous waters in the amendment of this particular clause in the current Bill? The presentation mentioned truancy officers. There was a big discussion around dropouts. 3.8 million young people were not in education, employment or skills training. If one looked at the trend over the years about how many learners started Grade 1 and how many made it through matric exams. There was a massive problem. The solution from the Department, which he did not understand, was to arrest parents for one year. SADTU mentioned that part of the solution could be the introduction of truancy officers. He asked SADTU to expand on that and where it would be in the legislation. The presentation also stated that the clause which said a child could start Grade R earlier needed to be completely scrapped. He asked if SADTU had heard about the research on highly-gifted learners. There was a 2% of highly gifted people across the globe. In many instances, these highly gifted children were called problematic, but they were smarter than their age. Would SADTU accept that parents might want to take their child to Grade R earlier because they are a highly gifted child? The presentation spoke about uniformity, equalling the playing field and not privatising education. The reality was that the Government was struggling to provide good quality education across the board. That was a fact. There were different role players in the system. There were independent and private schools, online and blended learning, and different approaches to teaching. Was it not time that the Government considered collaborative education models a public good? It was not necessarily to privatise education but to enhance the quality of education. He provided an example that in the Western Cape, there was a collaborative model of schools. He went to visit Jakes Gerwel in Bonnievale. A private donor collaborated with the Department of Education in the province. They built a school focusing on skills for learners who could not do reading and writing. The learners were taught a skill so that they could go to work. There was also a technical and academic stream. It was a no-fee paying school. That school aimed to ensure that the children in Bonnievale could access that education with good quality teaching and high-quality facilities. It was well-resourced. There was a perception that education was a public good, and therefore Government needed to provide education as a public good without any other innovative ways of dealing with it. Was it not time to look at what collaborative models there were, like Curro? A parent would rather sacrifice to pay R1000 a month because they knew it was a good quality of education. It was in the interest of the public good; therefore, the provincial department created a conducive environment for that to thrive. Rather than creating uniformity. He discussed language. Was the problem here that people could not access an Afrikaans medium school? Or was the problem that people could not access a single Xhosa medium school in the community that could provide better depth to understand and good quality education? There was constant mention of uniformity and equal-level playing fields. What was equalling the playing fields? Was it deflating the three tyres that had air? Or was it inflating the one tyre that did not have air? Was the problem that there were single medium language schools that children could not access or the fact that there were not enough good public schools that children could access in their mother tongue? He was happy that some children in the Eastern Cape wrote biology and maths in Xhosa because that was preferred. However, there were not enough schools which provided that. Was that not the problem, and should it be the focus of legislation? How could the Department improve access to mother tongue education rather than having a multilingual system? It was proven the world over that when a child studied in their mother tongue; they had a better understanding in terms of depth. The problem with South Africa is that people speak as good English as he does now, but the depth of knowledge becomes a challenge because children do not understand those concepts in their mother tongue. Should the legislation not address that rather than getting rid of single language schools and not addressing mother tongue education?
Dr Boshoff discussed Grade R. Many people wanted to keep their children at home for as long as possible, but they did not feel obliged to homeschool. They wanted their children at least at home until seven. Then the parents were willing to let their children go to school with a few tearful eyes. That was a compromise. If the BELA Bill became law, the State wanted to take possession of that and say that from Grade R, the parents needed to apply for an exemption if they wished to have their children at home. He wondered if the idea of taking children into education earlier was similar to the concept in some socialist setups where the State took control of the children as soon as the children did not feed anymore. One did not know where the State was going. He wanted to know SADTU's take on that. He discussed language, and language is a barrier to entry. He said how he and many schools viewed it. Then he wanted to hear from SADTU why he and those schools were wrong. He provided an example that if there was a single medium Sepedi school that offered good quality education and he wanted to enrol his child in that school.
Then there was no discrimination because he accepted that his child would be taught in Sepedi. He believed that there was no discrimination because he made an informed choice. He noted that it was very seldom that a Sepedi single-language school was a problem. In his experience, the problem was with Afrikaans. He wanted clarity on another matter. He discussed the clauses on going to jail if one hindered a child from attending school and limiting the rights to picket outside schools. To him, it was inconceivable to have teachers striking. He knew it had happened. To him, it was about what model was used for education. The model he had in his mind was that a teacher was a professional like a doctor, lawyer, or many other professions. One expected the teacher to act professionally. They had to negotiate for their remuneration; otherwise, they would not be paid anything, but they could not strike. The other model of thinking about teachers was that teachers were the members of the factory floor of education, and they had different people fighting for their interests. The Department would be management, and the teachers were workers. In that context, a strike was typical to get one's message across.
Ms van Zyl said she was covered by Mr Nodada, who spoke about the truancy officers and the penalty parents could face for 12 months. The increase in punishment from six months to 12 months indicated that six months was not working. What would SADTU's solution to that be?
Mr Siwela discussed the presentation's comments on interrupting school activities through a protected strike within the premises. The presentation said that it should be allowed. Did strike action not impact the rights of learners? What circumstances lead to learners being denied access due to admissions policies? Did this Bill respond sufficiently to ensure that such practices did not occur?
Ms Adoons asked about the recent union experience where the learner could not access former model c schools. Was there any sufficient support for such learners provided? She discussed the migration of ECDs from the Department of Social Development to the Department of Basic Education. She remembered at some point; the Minister was asked a question about migration and babies being in schools. The Minister had said that babies would not attend schools because of migration. She thought that was very funny. People thought that babies would be attending schools because of the migration. What was the union's view that children starting Grade R at a younger age would be disadvantaged? Would it serve as an advantage for others? Would regulations be required to protect children in certain instances?
The Chairperson said that the presentation affirmed the role and responsibility of parents concerning the compulsory attendance of students. Most parents left for work in the morning and were back at night. During that time, the learner was left with no adult supervision. Even attending school meetings was challenging for many parents as they could not participate. How did the union mobilise teachers, parents, and employers to understand the issue of compulsory learner attendance? The presentation inspired the Members to draw lessons from international practice in terms of the mandatory education laws, which typically held parents and guardians responsible for child school attendance. She asked SADTU to appraise the Committee on the compulsory education laws it spoke about. The presentation mentioned the truancy officers. What were the alternatives to address mandatory learner attendance? She discussed clause 2(c). The presentation noted that wilful disruption should not be in this Bill because the Bill acknowledged two pieces of legislation. Why did SADTU think that this clause should not be included? What was SADTU's serious issue with the clause on the wilful disruption? She discussed the recommendation in clause 4. The advice was for equity and access to education. She asked how SADTU was taking the lead to drive the proposal for addressing equity and access in schools in the Western Cape. The use of alcohol was permitted but not in school unless for experiments and approved programmes. She asked for SADTU to clarify further on this recommendation. What was SADTU's advice on the use of alcohol in schools? How were the educators on the ground reacting to this clause of alcohol being sold on the school premises?
Mr Rustin discussed the implementation of Grade R, the cost of R1.7 billion and the reasonable practicality around it. SADTU's view was that if SASA was changed and the school-going age was changed, then it meant that Grade R now become compulsory. It now became the responsibility of the Treasury to budget the R1.7 billion to realise and implement what the law said. It was going to be to the advantage of children to have Grade R as a critical phase where the learners would be attending the school at that particular time. The research showed that if a learner were in an ECD programme, the learner would be far more ready than the learner who came straight from home to school. A Member asked if it infringed on the parent's rights to bring the child early. There were other options. For example, homeschooling could be done. SADTU wanted all learners to be taught by a qualified educator and interact with other learners. Sending children for play education at an early age helped those learners develop social skills and the psycho-social needs of the learner. It sets the monitoring skills of the child and the numeracy skills. Therefore, there was a significant benefit with the attendance of Grade R and the ECD sector.
Ms Faseega Solomon, Vice President: Education, SADTU, discussed the option to send a Grade R learner to school earlier and the reference made to gifted learners. She noted what Dr Deacon had said, was the Department legislating for exceptions? Talented children were exceptions in the system. SADTU was looking at not allowing parents to admit children at an earlier age than what was required because the capacity of schools needed to be considered. Grade R would become compulsory. There would be issues with infrastructure and funding. The challenge was that schools should stick to the admission age and deal with the exceptions in another way. She discussed the challenges raised with funding Grade R. The union had also submitted that issue. It was currently busy with the ELRC working out the service for the Grade R practitioners and the move towards more compulsory schooling. The challenge that provinces had raised was that there was no budget for that. It was a challenge. If one looked at the research on laying the foundation for education, other studies showed that age four to five learners were not ready to be taken up in schools. The Department needed to ensure that it laid that foundation and gave children access to Grade R. Could the country afford not to have Grade R compulsory? That, for her, was the critical question. Could the country afford not to have Grade R as mandatory to deliver quality education?
Mr Rustin said that the reality was that each province was currently funding Grade R, but they were investing it haphazardly. For example, in the North West, the Grade R teachers could be paid average teachers' salaries. In KZN, it might be something else, and in the Western Cape, it was completely different. There needed to be more consistency in terms of how it was done. The Bill and the amendment brought the synergy in the country together and took Grade R seriously. The Bill said that a standard policy should be implemented throughout the country. The stipends should be removed, and Grade R should be put in a more concrete model. Treasury should fund the particular amendment to the Bill. He thought that South Africa could not afford not to have Grade R compulsory.
The country would be left behind. Mr Rustin discussed wilful disruption. He acknowledged that there had been a wilful disruption in various ways. SADTU said that the Bill could not stratify what a fundamental human right regarding section 23 as wilful disruption was. It was a right in terms of the Constitution. When a strike for all workers went out of hand, resulting in illegal actions, other laws in the country could deal with such activities. SADTU acknowledged community protests where roads were blocked for six months, learners could not get to the school, or the community locked the school and could not enter. Was it necessary to change SASA to deal with a variety of people? SADTU did not think it was required. SADTU believed there were sufficient other laws to deal with that particular matter. He discussed truancy officers. SADTU thought the responsibility could be more than just the school for making dropouts.
Schools had a vital role to play, and so did parents. At the district level, the appointment of truancy officers to trace and track learners who dropped out may assist in that matter. It was not only about tracking and tracking. It was also about helping to reintegrate those learners who were playing truant for many reasons. SADTU acknowledged what the Chairperson had said. Parents were working from the morning to the evening. They often received messages saying their child did not come to school today, but the parents did not respond effectively because of the circumstances. Sometimes the employer did not allow the parent time off to see the school. Sometimes there was a breakdown in terms of parenting and family life. Everyone had a responsibility, and everyone wanted to ensure every child succeeded. That was their motto. Every child must succeed. No child could be left behind. Schools must play their role, but they were also teaching from the morning to the afternoon. What was put in place from a district point of view or a circuit point of view? Truancy officers could track, trace, and reintegrate those particular learners into the school. This should be used so that the imprisonment provisions were not used, which the Department had been speaking about.
Ms Solomon discussed the migration of ECD to the Department of Basic Education. The government must conscientise communities around the many misconceptions about ECD and the function shift. The function shift dealt with ages nought to four in the main. DBE was not becoming the employer of the practitioners. It was still very much operated through NPOs and NGOs. It was privately owned centres. What DBE took over was in terms of administration and registration. That was the function that DBE took over. The private sector still operated ECD, but the administration was done through DBE. The financing came over, and there was no additional financing. In the case of the ECD, the employer was not the DBE. It was still the privately owned NPOs and NGOs. There needed to be some advocacy around precisely what was happening there.
Mr Rustin said that as educationalists, they had always grappled with the idea of quality education. What was quality education? Did it mean that everyone passed matric at the school? Or was quality education if a learner could fit into society and be a meaningful citizen of the country? That was a debate for another day. He spoke about the Jakes Gerwel School. It was a donor school and not a collaboration school. The school had been built with donor funding. SADTU had no problem with that. It was challenging the governance clause in terms of SASA. Collaboration schools were where a third-party entity received funding from the State to run a particular school. The information was a bit blurred. He provided the example of Langa High School. It had had the most disastrous results in the past couple of years. The model was not full-proof. The major challenge to the collaborative model was that the Act in the province said that 51% of those on the SGB needed to come from the donor party. This transgressed what SASA said, that most of the SGB should be the parents. That was subjected to other legislative processes. He believed that public-private partnerships should be encouraged, like the donor schools, so that additional funding could be brought in. But there should be no tampering with this Committee's oversight to ensure the implementation of the SA Schools Act. There should not be different governance models in that regard. There were other models to ensure that the outcomes were improved, which were not based on matric results only. There was a model that DBE was starting to work on, which was called union-management partnership. The university research said that when the union and the management worked together, it mitigated poverty and increased learning achievement. It also promoted learner retention. The dropout levels were decreased, and the teacher levels increased even in poor schools. That was something that the Committee needed to keep its eyes on. The secondary strategy was that the DBE would collaborate with the ELCR to improve learning and teaching. He noted that the Chairperson asked a difficult question about what SADTU Western Cape was doing about access to ex-model c schools in the province. It had been raising it consistently with the HOD of the province that the policy that was absent when a school was full was problematic in terms of access for learners. There was now a policy system where a parent applied for admission to the school. The only thing the parent received back was that the school was oversubscribed, so the learner could not be admitted. The parent then had the opportunity to appeal against the decision to the SGB. He noted that the transformation agenda was poor. That was an area of legislation that needed to be strengthened to be able to improve that. Some schools were using the poor excuse that the family was not in the feeder area, but nowhere in the admissions guidelines were their issues of feeder areas. What about parents who were domestic workers who were maybe working and living in Pinelands, but they could not go to Pinelands High School? The fact that schools were using learner achievement in primary schools for access to high schools was a terrible misnomer that needed to be addressed. There were old boys and old girls policies that said if a learner's previous siblings or parents attended a particular school, then the learner stood an additional advantage in attending the school. That was divisive and un-transformative because some old boys and girls could not attend those schools in the 1980s and 1970s. He discussed good quality public education schools and the choice of parents. He noted that one of the things parents judged quality with was the physical environment and surroundings of the school. That was the first thing that parents saw. Some parents would look at the academic results, the matric outcomes and the quality reports of the school. However, the first thing anybody saw was the school's physical facilities. That was the first thing that attracted parents. The parents did not know how they taught. The parents did now know how nice they were. Were the teachers kind to the children? Were they qualified teachers? The parents went on the physical environment and the reputation of the school. He noted that there needed to be a further discussion on the Chairperson's question about intervention. There was a major challenge. Traditional spatial development has not gone in terms of apartheid spatial development. Areas were all open. Learners who lived directly next to schools and received all 7s were denied access to the school. How was that justified? It was a challenging question. He discussed alcohol use for experiments. SADTU was talking about science experiments. If the life sciences or physics teacher wanted to use alcohol to experiment to cause a mini explosion, that should be allowed in schools, but not alcohol in the body of the school. He discussed appeals made to the HOD's admission and language policy decision. One proposal was that an appeal could be made to the MEC, or an independent appeals committee could break the deadlock between the HOD and the SGB. That would be part of the solution in that regard. The dialogue was one of the ways of getting rid of misconceptions and addressing the real issues of quality education for all learners.
Ms Solomon said that the presentation referred to the Kentucky education laws, which spoke about the interest in maintaining an educated population. It is currently aligned with the BELA Bill, which sought to keep children in school at the compulsory age. They also made provision for formal homeschooling. The conditions they had for when a child did not come to school aligned with the BELA Bill to say that if the learner was truant, then the parent must be informed, and an investigation must occur. If there were a wilful act on the part of the parent in keeping the child out of school, there would be fines or imprisonment. It was aligned, which was why SADTU referred to the Kentucky law to ensure that South Africa had an educated population. SADTU could submit it to the Committee in writing.
Mr Rustin discussed what could be done to address learner truancy and dropouts. The school had an essential role in advocating for the learners themselves about the importance of education and why they needed to complete their schooling. The Department needed to work with the SGB and SGB formations, like FEDSAS, to be able to do the advocacy work. Unions also had to play a role and could not be on the periphery. Teachers, through their practices, needed to ensure that learners were retained. Teachers' techniques should not alienate or push out any learners but keep learners in the school system.
Ms Solomon said that SADTU supported the provision that schools needed to be held accountable because, many times, the learners that dropped out were challenging. So, it was in the school's interest not to go and look where the child was. What had been happening as a practice was that schools started with a cohort of 300-grade eights and ended up with 100 matriculants for that same cohort, which had been accepted as a norm. This amendment needed to bring greater accountability for the school to take greater responsibility and be responsible for the learner that was dropping out. What was the school doing to retain those learners? This was one of the reasons why SADTU supported that amendment to bring about greater accountability on the part of the school.
The Chairperson thanked SADTU for its submission. The Committee noted the request.
Dr Faranaaz Veriava, Head of Education, SECTION27, and Mr Motheo Brodie, Legal Researcher and Advice Office Coordinator, SECTION27, made the presentation to the Committee. SECTION 27 welcomed the alignment of the BELA Bill with key jurisprudential developments, particularly regarding school governance. The presentation noted that the powers of SGBs at individual schools cannot be exercised in isolation from the broader systemic issues in education but must be understood within the context of the more general constitutional scheme and the imperative to redress the legacy of apartheid education. The presentation discussed the SGB policy-making functions, compulsory schooling, corporal punishment and learner dropouts. The presentation also highlighted aspects of the BELA Bill that SECTION 27 aligned itself with and endorsed. SECTION 27 supported the submissions made by the Centre for Child Law relating to documents required for learner admissions. It aligned with the recommendations of Equal Education and the Equal Education Law Centre on criminalising parents who fail to send children to school and bring alcohol into school premises.
SBG Policy Making Functions – Language
• SECTION27 supported clauses 4 and 5 amendments in respect of admission and language policies and the necessity of such policies being approved by the HOD to ensure constitutional compliance.
• It submitted that the autonomy of SGBs and the principle of cooperative governance and grassroots democracy are maintained by SGBs continuing to develop their policies and having a right of appeal.
• Concerned by the potential capacity constraints of the HOD that may result in unlawful and unconstitutional policies.
• It recommended an office specialising in reviewing school policies to be established in BELA under the auspices of the HOD.
SGB Policy Making Functions – SGB Religion Policies
• Recommend, in line with the judgment of Organisatie vir GodsdiensteOnderrig en Demokrasie v Laerskool Randhart ("OGOD"), that BELA include a section amending Section 7 of SASA stating that single religion policies are prohibited in public schools.
• SECTION27 support for making Grade R compulsory is conditional on Grade R being appropriately resourced, play-based learning being emphasized, and there is adequate training and wages for ECD practitioners.
• There is a need for specific emphasis on age-appropriate play material and equipment in light of the introduction of compulsory Grade R.
• SECTION27 recommends that SASA be amended to require that minimum norms and standards include playing material and equipment.
Mr Nodada said the presentation's comments on learner dropout sounded like his speech from the SONA debate from this year. The proposals that they made were proposals that he had made there. He discussed the issue of compulsory Grade R. He agreed that the country could not afford not to have it, but the Government needed to implement it. When legislators made laws, they needed to be implementable. That was why when someone presented earlier; they asked what the socio-economic impact assessment of the Bill was. When Parliament made laws, it needed to ensure that there was follow-through. Parliament must not make laws for the sake of making laws. The Department had yet to find an answer around this issue of the funding model and whether Treasury had given complete correspondence on whether this was practically implementable. Then there would be a challenge constitutionally.
The Members needed to raise this all the time to ensure the Bill was almost implementable. Which transitional provisions would SECTION27 recommend for compulsory Grade R education? SECTION27 mentioned quite a few. Should it include provisions that hold the Department accountable for not meeting or fulfilling the mandate of the Bill? If this law was put in place and the Department did not meet the requirement that Grade R was now compulsory, then should there not be a mechanism inserted in the Bill to hold the Department accountable for that? He heard the argument that laws should not be made for the exception, and Parliament should also not make laws for the 'majority' at the exclusion of the minority.
The Constitution promoted that were reasonably and practically possible; the Department needed to be able to provide mother tongue education of single medium instruction. The Bill then said that the power to determine language policy must be handed over to a single figure in the Department to make that determination. That was what SECTION 27 supported as well. Yet, the Constitution said that if it was reasonable and practically implementable, the Department must provide that open. For example, he would be able to study in Xhosa. He could not be told that he could not learn in Xhosa and needed to study with dual medium instruction because the majority felt that way. How would SECTION 27 protect that particular clause in the Constitution that if it was reasonable and practically implementable that a learner could study in a single medium language of instruction? In the introductory remarks of the presentation, it mentioned addressing apartheid education. He noted that his parents went through Bantu Education. Someone somewhere decided they had to study in Afrikaans, and it was the Government at the time.
SECTION 27 said that apartheid education needed to be addressed. Then, at the same time, it noted that powers were required to be given to the Government to determine the language of instruction. How did SECTION 27 balance that out? Should parents and communities who usually care for their children not be empowered in their communities? Then whatever recourse mechanisms were there, the MEC or HOD would intervene. Should that not be the approach? Rather than saying apartheid education would be addressed, but then giving the HOD the power to determine those policies. What was the difference? He did not see a difference. The government used the same principle when his parents were experiencing Bantu Education, where they were forced to study in Afrikaans. He wanted to understand what the difference was. He discussed school performance in South Africa. There was a 76.4% matric pass rate. He noted that the top 20 schools in the whole report that the Committee got were Muslim religious schools. Those were public schools in South Africa. SECTION 27 had a proposal that called for removing any particular religion in schools. Should the Department not be applying the democratic principle of saying that South Africa was a diverse nation? In the country's diversity, parents needed to be allowed to decide if they wanted to take their child to a dual medium school, a single medium school, or a particular religious school. Should the Department not be providing that choice and variety in diversity? The Constitution says that no one must be discriminated against based on language, gender, race, or sexual orientation. SECTION 27 proposes that religion must be gotten rid of. He wanted to understand SECTION 27's rationale in terms of that.
Mr Siwela discussed the reasonable accommodation on the code of conduct clause. What was the factor that created the limitation of specific elements once the former created various circumstances which would be considered in line with the constitutional imperatives?
Ms van Zyl said that she had a question about corporal punishment. She agreed that it should not be inflicted on any child. She decided on how it was put in the BELA Bill. The presentation discussed non-physical corporal punishment that was cruel. She wanted to understand what that type of corporal punishment was. In adult life, there are rights and wrongs, and children need to be taught the difference between right and wrong from a young age. There needed to be some form of discipline. What was SECTION 27's solution to instilling these values of determining right from wrong? What was cruel non-physical punishment? What was SECTION 27's solution for discipline?
Dr Boshoff said that SECTION27 was not an institution accounting to the Committee. He wanted some clarity. If SECTION 27 suggested that compulsory education should be extended towards Grade 12, had SECTION 27 ever considered the type of education that resided with the Department of Higher Education and Training? He was referring to the TVET Colleges. He noted that TVET Colleges differed from the marvellous institutions, NSFAS funded it less, and students studying at a TVET College received less money than university students. He noted a report which stated that Grade 12 was the second worst qualification to have in terms of employability, and grade 11 was the worst.
Grade 10 and even Grade 6, the highest qualification, gave one a higher probability of being employed. That was what he had based his PhD on. The reason for that was that matric was not a vocational qualification. It prepares the student for another qualification. The problem was that after going to school, students could only do one thing very well, and that was going to school. That was the only thing students learned to do well. Then students still had to go and learn something else. In that sense, if one was not going to study beyond Grade 12, it was much better to get out at Grade 9 and go to a TVET College where one could get some qualification, which would prepare one better for the employment market. Did SECTION 27 consider that there was a Department of Higher Education and Training with qualifications from level two on the NQF towards the same level as matric and beyond when it made this suggestion? He suspected not because one could say that educational compulsion until 12 years of education, but one would not say school. He discussed corporal punishment. The presentation stated that there should be no cruel or degrading punishment. Was there any room for punishment in SECTION 27's reasoning because whenever a person was punished, they tended not to like it? It could be construed by the person being penalised as cruel or degrading, significantly if one widened the scope of what inhuman and degrading meant. He disagreed that there were ways of being cruel and degrading without touching someone. However, was there room for the concept of punishment? Or was the only way to discipline or teach values through positive affirmation? That was what Ms van Zyl had also referred to. He just wanted to follow the reasoning of SECTION 27 regarding this.
The Chairperson asked what the main thing SECTION 27 dealt with in the education sector was. SECTION 27 mentioned the rights of children in the context of corporal punishment. South Africa was a member of the United Nations and had ratified some of the UN treaties. How often did SECTION 27 lead advocacy campaigns to inform parents about their child's rights as per the UN protocols? How often did SECTION27 engage with learners about the impediment of learner dropout from schools? Did SECTION 27 inform people about the constitutional laws, so they understood the policies to enforce good governance in general? She wanted to understand SECTION27's submission on the issue of undocumented learners. What were its objections, and what did it welcome?
Dr Veriava responded to the question of language that came from Mr Nodada. She responded to the question of what SECTION27 was pushing for dual medium schools. She noted that their parents had gone to apartheid schools and the imposition of Afrikaans. Why was SECTION27 not focusing on mother tongue education? She noted that the challenge faced in all of these schools was space, which went back to one of the first Constitutional Court cases, which was about keeping out learners of other races in single-medium schools. That was the issue that largely had to be addressed. This had been addressed through the BELA Bill and through jurisprudential principles that were developed. She noted that there had been a lot of focus on reasonable practicability. That was one factor that needed to be taken into account. If one went to section 29(2) of the Constitution, it was not just reasonable practicability, it was also the issue of equity, and there was also the issue of historical redress. She discussed the imposition of Afrikaans on parents during Bantu Education. That would not even come into it. That kind of analogy did not hold anymore. A lot of SECTION27's work focused on improving the historically disadvantaged schools that most learners attended. SECTION27 wanted enough space in all schools and ensured quality in all of these schools. The problem was the infrastructure backlogs that had to be dealt with. There was the fact that many of these schools were under-resourced in terms of adequately trained teachers. There had been a lot of talk in the meeting about parental choice. Parents wanted the best for their children and sought schools with well-qualified teachers and good infrastructure. Every time there was a language question, whether single medium or dual medium, one needed to remember the three things in the Constitution. This was reasonable practicability, equity, and redress. These three things needed to come into the equation. SECTION27 was not pushing for dual medium schools. It stretched for constitutional considerations to be at play every time language was an issue. She discussed single religion schools. She noted that those Muslim schools that had done so well were not public schools. They were private schools. Their pedagogy was very different to other schools, whether private Anglican or public schools. Those schools focused mainly on academics. It has been criticised for coming at the cost of many other things. SECTION27 was not saying that religion should be taken out of schools. She noted a case where people argued that these were schools in a predominantly Christian community. These communities were established due to the spatial arrangements of apartheid. Changing these demographics at the school created diverse communities, which necessitated that single-religion schools were not imposed. That did not mean not teaching religious education at school. That did not mean not respecting religious observances at school. It just meant ensuring that a child of a minority religion would not feel inferior or excluded at that school. For example, if a Christian prayer was said at that school daily and that child was told that if they did not want to be part of that Christian prayer, then they had to sit in the library. However, assemblies had a lot of other information communicated at that school which was necessary for that child's education. That would be discriminating against the child. Single religion schools, in that case, were discriminatory. If South Africa went to the dominance of one religion over another, the country was returning to the imposition of Christian Nationalist education in schools. She did not wholly understand the question of just cause concerning reasonable accommodation. How she understood it was that if SECTION27 were giving specific factors, it would limit what would just cause. It was how that would be communicated. When it came to uniform requirements, SECTION27 often saw that if schools were not given clear examples of things, then they would not know. If they were given vague terms and were not given clear examples was when there were more violations of the law. They were just specifying that these were just examples of reasonable accommodation, but they were not an exhaustive list of what reasonable accommodation would entail. To provide clear examples, SECTION27 had brought along some of their legal handbooks, which they would hand out today. This was to look at the actual examples of the violations that were happening in schools. There were a lot of partner organisations that were experiencing them. SECTION27 put these examples in books so SGB members and teachers could know how to deal with these scenarios. Similarly, it was to provide examples of when Parliament was developing the BELA Bill and other legislation of what could constitute unconstitutionality. This was to make it understandable for the people who had to apply the law then.
Mr Brodie discussed corporal punishment. He provided more clarity on what SECTION27 meant by cruel as degrading. This included things like sarcasm and calling children names. Those were aspects that deeply affected a child, which was not physical. This included calling children particular names repeatedly or making fun of physical appearances. That type of degradation was cruel. SECTION27 was a proponent of positive discipline measures. The hitting of children was unconstitutional and not allowed, and the BELA Bill did well to reaffirm that. He noted that the issue of positive discipline was one where teachers needed support. He understood the members' point about ensuring discipline in the class. There should be more teacher training on positive behaviour reinforcement instead of teachers resorting to corporal punishment. That needed training of its own. The law was clear. Corporal punishment was not allowed, and SECTION27 proposed the addition of cruel and degrading practices. He discussed Grade 12 and TVET Colleges. The compulsory age for Grade R was six years old. Then schooling was mandatory up until 15 years old. SECTION27 proposed that Grades 10, 11, and 12 be included in the scope of primary education. This Bill did not make Grades 10, 11, and 12 compulsory. Learners could still ask at 15 years old or upon the completion of Grade 9 to branch out into TVET education. He discussed SECTION27's work in leading advocacy campaigns. Working with parents and children was a big part of its work. It had community mobilisers across the provinces of Limpopo and KZN, where it held workshops in schools. One of its most essential workshops was sexual violence workshops with learners. These workshops informed them of what the procedures were should they be sexually violated by a teacher. It also had seminars on sexual reproductive health education with learners. It also did workshops on corporeal punishment. It regularly interacted with SGBs in the communities it worked in. That was a big part of its work. The production of its handbook was also a part of its advocacy work. It was meant for everyone in society, from teachers to SGBs. It was part of its advocacy and engagement with schooling communities. He discussed SECTION27's stance on undocumented learners. SECTION27 supported the submission that the Centre would make for Child Law. He noted the extent to which the BELA Bill differed from the Phakamisa judgement. The BELA Bill proposed that more documents must be provided than the judgement required. In that judgement, where a learner does not have documentation, an alternative form of documentation could be an affidavit from the parents. The BELA Bill had a long list of required documentation, which was not in line with that judgement. SECTION27 recommended that the provision proposing an intergovernmental committee be removed. It included members of SAPS, Home Affairs, and immigration authorities. The problem with that committee was that learners ran the risk of being reported. The problem with that was that parents would fear sending learners to school because they fear that they might be deported. This went against what the Phakamisa judgement was trying to achieve and went against the right to primary education.
Mr Nodada said that his question on Grade R still needed to be answered. Which transitional provisions would SECTION27 recommend for compulsory Grade R education? Should the Bill include requirements that hold the Department accountable for not meeting that particular obligation of Grade R being made mandatory? He had a follow-up question, and it was concerning section 29 of the Constitution. How would SECTION27 suggest that the right to mother tongue education be balanced in areas where there might only be single language schools while ensuring that language and admissions policies were not being used to exclude particular learners? How was that balanced?
Mr Brodie discussed compulsory Grade R and provisions holding the Department accountable. SECTION27 had yet to make particular submissions on that. SECTION27 trusted that the Department would be ready to roll out Grade R and make it compulsory when the Bill was put into law. It would use its usual accountability measures to hold the Department accountable, which included litigation where necessary.
Dr Veriava discussed mother tongue education. There was a constitutional commitment to mother-tongue education. It was essential. Research showed that with more mother tongue education, learner outcomes were improved. The solution there was a different solution. The key here is better resourcing for schools that provide mother tongue education. There were many official languages. Those schools providing mother tongue education needed to be adequately capacitated so that parents did not want to send their children to those schools. What SECTION27 was dealing with in clause 4 was a different type of issue. There was a provisioning issue, which was a focus area in SECTION27. It ensured that schools were adequately resourced to provide improved educational outcomes. There should be better systems for mother tongue education. SECTION27 received notification about issues through complaints from the community highlighting systemic issues. It knew the subject of mother tongue education in terms of the research, but SECTION27 had yet to receive a particular complaint about mother tongue education in 12 years. She thanked the Members for their questions.
The Chairperson thanked SECTION27 for its submission. The Committee noted the request, which would form part of the Committee's consolidated report, which would go to Parliament.
Cause for Justice Submission
Ms Liesl Pretorius, Legal Advisor and Parliamentary Liaison, Cause for Justice, made the presentation to the Committee. The presentation highlighted the importance of the institutional authority of parents as represented by the SGB. The presentation was submitted on specific clauses. These clauses included admission to public schools, language policy of public schools, curriculum and assessment, code of conduct of learners, code of conduct of governing body, allocated functions of governing bodies, the constitution of governing body and regulations. The CFJ did not support broadening the Minister's powers without reasoned justification and broadening powers directly linked to the diminution power of SGB and parents. Without reasoned justification likely falls foul of the limitations clause, section 36 of the Constitution. The CFJ supported the deletion of clause 4(d), clause 5(c), clause 6, clause 8(4)(d), clause 16 and clause 18.
Importance of institutional authority of parents as represented by the SGB
• Participatory nature of the decision-making process involving parents, SGBs and the State emphasises the vitally necessary partnership between parties to ensure children are provided with quality basic education.
• Any proposed amendments should acknowledge the fundamental rights of parents, the importance of participatory governance of schools and collective decision-making processes and uphold societal spheres of authority.
Admission to public schools
• CFJ had serious reservations about centralising powers in HOD/provincial education departments
• Good reasons SGB has the obligation and right to determine admissions policy: functionally best-suited authority to make the determination (proximity to school and surrounding community).
• If there is disagreement between HOD and SGB, HOD is obliged to consult SGB on an even footing.
Curriculum and assessment
• in the absence of express safeguards protecting the Minister and/or curriculum (i.e. public and CAPS following independent schools) against the risk of ideological capture, CFJ has serious reservations about the proposed new section 6(a)(3). The recommendation was to delete clause 6.
Dr Boshoff asked Ms Pretorius to explain the difference between decentralisation and devolution in more detail. He noted that the presentation confirmed many things about parents' responsibility and rights to education. When one notices the underlying fundamental differences in approaches, that should be mentioned because that was why people were arguing. Sometimes people focused on superfluous stuff. Was it the State's children? Or was it the parents' children? Was it the State who decided it wanted to take children at that age and keep them until a specific age? Or was it the parents' children who made the choice to go to an institution? It was not individualistic versus state approach. It was a community approach because parents and children were all community members. The whole action of education was a community-based thing which has not been subjected to the logic of the market and the logic of the overbearing State. If Ms Pretorius had anything that she had written and wanted to email to him, it would be very welcome.
Ms Pretorius said that it was the parents' children. It was essential to recognise that the State derived its power from the people and needed to serve the people within that limit. The moment it took steps outside of that border, it acted irrationally and without any basis. It only had the power that was legally assigned to it. That contrasts with a person who had inherent fundamental rights. The decentralisation of power could be defined as the relocation of administrative functions away from a central location. Devolution was more about moving the power itself away. With decentralisation, the power was still localised in one place, but functions were given out. Whereas with devolution power was moved to other spheres.
The Chairperson thanked Cause for Justice for its submission, and the Committee had noted the submission.
Centre for Child Law Submission
Ms Moyahabo Thoka, Junior Researcher, Centre for Child Law, made the presentation to the Committee. The presentation discussed the required documents for admission, corporal punishment, codes of conduct and sexual harassment protocols.
Sexual harassment protocols
• The Centre for Child Law commend the proposed amendment to section 8(4) and the inclusion of exemptions to the school's code of conduct to accommodate varying cultural and religious views and medical circumstances of different learners; and its overall attempt to recognise and respect the diversity of all children in the Republic.
• Nonetheless, it noted that there are specific practical problems in the application of this provision. Due to the deep-seated inequality in society, the appeal process which requires the appeal to be lodged to the Head of Department, who often sits in the provincial capital, may have the effect of rendering this appeal process as inaccessible to many poor families and those without technological devices and email accounts that permit them to lodge such an appeal via email or telephonically.
• It proposed that where an adverse decision is made, the affected learner and caregivers -as the case may be must be provided with written reasons for such refusal. Additionally, such learner and caregiver must be provided with the office's contact details or relevant persons with whom such an appeal must be lodged. In this way, providing access to information will effect a more meaningful, feasible and objectively fair appeal process. It also proposed that the appeal period within which a child or caregiver may appeal must be extended to accommodate the various socio-economic and geographical factors that may negatively affect their ability to seek further recourse in the form of an appeal.
Dr Boshoff said that the presentation focused on the proposed law, which no one else gave attention. He noted that it was not illegal to have a child without the necessary documentation, but before that box was ticked, one could not move forward with the administrative side. At least before the report card came out of the system, the box needed to be ticked that the documentation was there. The required administrative system to explicitly make room for it. There were lots of good ideas, but the person doing administration needed to be in a position to execute them because of the system. He noted that the presentation was informative.
Mr Siwela discussed the issue of documentation. The presentation noted that clause 1(m) should be entirely deleted. At the same time, it proposed that it lists the birth certificate and an affidavit that should be allowed if that could not be done. Was that not a form of documentation?
The Chairperson asked if there was a relationship between the Centre for Child Law, Equal Education and SECTION27. If so, what type of relationship was that? She discussed clause 4(b), which related to establishing the intergovernmental committee. Was the Centre for Child Law aware that the country, and Parliament, had a strategic objective on cooperative governance for the Department to work with other Departments? This was to meet the purpose of intergovernmental relations. The government was trying to work together to resolve these issues within the cluster. Stateless children were referred to in the presentation. From which countries did they come? How many of them were in South Africa, and in which provinces were they residing? What was the standard protocol for the documentation of learners in terms of international practice? Were there countries that admitted children to schools without documentation? Or should it only happen in South Africa because it was South Africa? The presentation discussed the Department of Home Affairs and its role. The presentation stated that the Department of Home Affairs needed to assist stateless and refugee children to get their documents. If the Centre for Child Law ran Home Affairs, what would it have done better concerning stateless children?
Adv Misser discussed the issue of undocumented learners. The whole purpose of the intergovernmental committee was to encourage and improve cooperative governance and intergovernmental relationships. It was also assistive to the parents and the learners without documentation. That was the reason for putting that in the Bill. South Africa could not be a state where persons living without documents in the country. This was one of the mechanisms to make sure that learners received documentation.
Ms Thoka discussed the registration of children and the administrative process that would come with that. What had been the practice in some of the provinces was that the school would take the name of the child as had been explained by the parents and the date of birth that was given in that affidavit. That would be the identifying details for the purposes of administration. She clarified how the terms were differentiated. There was asylum seekers, refugees, undocumented persons and stateless persons. An asylum seeker came from outside and applied to be a refugee in the country. Only once they were recognised as a refugee would they be given that refugee status. Then they would be referred to as a refugee. If they were refused refugee status, then they would be illegal immigrants. The second category was stateless persons. Stateless persons did not have specific citizenship assigned to them. She noted the different types of citizenship. In South Africa, citizenship was assigned through blood. Either one's mother or father was South African, then that person had the right to be a South African citizen. Therefore, they could get an ID. Stateless persons did not have a claim to either parent's citizenship because of the restrictive laws in either country, which clash. She noted that the Citizenship Act stated that where a person would otherwise be stateless, the South African Government would provide them with nationality. That was South African law. It was what the law said. An undocumented person was anyone who the government of that country did not officially recognise. This happened in a South African context where a person's birth was never registered with Home Affairs. According to the system, they did not exist and were never born. When undocumented persons were spoken about, nationality or statehood could not be assigned to them because they did not have one. They did not exist anywhere. In the context of South Africa, there were examples of that where people lived in very report areas far away from services. There were examples of mothers who lived in remote areas and gave birth at home because they were far from hospitals. They never got a chance to go to the hospital to register their child's birth officially. Until the child was 15 and trying to acquire an ID. That was where a lot of cases were coming up. She discussed whether that affidavit served as documentation. Documentation was in the official sense where Government recognised it. As a South African, this would be in the form of an ID number. An affidavit was not necessarily a form of documentation. It was a document, but it was not documentation in the official sense. It did not assign one nationality by virtue of having an ID. She discussed the relationship between CCL, EE, and SECTION27. Because all three had units that dealt with education and all had units that dealt with children, they tended to be in the same spaces. Sometimes they would have interest meetings to discuss the legislation that was coming up in Parliament. They would have meetings to discuss what submissions they would be making. However, all three organisations were independent and served their own interests. She discussed the strategic objective of cooperative governance. She noted that in line with the submission she had made, compliance with the POPI Act was also important so that people consented to their information being disseminated through those systems. She responded to the question about where the stateless children came from and how many of them there were. By virtue of those persons being stateless, it meant that they did not exist in any official system. They were not recognised. Most of the information the CCL received was from schools on an individual basis when they had queries. They provided a separate account with their numbers. However, there was no centralised number that CCL could find from its research. She responded to the question about how many children came from each country. She assumed this was in relation to the unaccompanied children, refugee children, asylum seekers and others who were in the country through other means that were not properly legal. CCL did not have a lot of numbers for that. It depended on where one was in the country. If one was in the Free State, there were many from Lesotho. If one was in Gauteng, a lot was coming from every direction. If one was in Limpopo, there were people from Mozambique and Zimbabwe. If one was in Mpumalanga, there were people from eSwatini and Mozambique. There were no particular numbers because the disaggregated data in the schooling system did not say if a child was undocumented. The data published by the DBE did not speak to the documentation status of each child. She discussed the Department of Home Affairs and what the CCL thought that Home Affairs could do better. Many cases had been in the Constitutional Court, the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal, which had made specific judgements and findings on what the Department of Home Affairs must do. She provided an example. If one child's parent was South African and the other parent was Zimbabwean, then that child could claim South African nationality. One of the things that the Department of Home Affairs did in its operating procedures was that they only allowed the South African mother to register the child. So, if one was a South African father, then nothing could be done. The South African father could not register the child's birth even though the child had the right to nationality in terms of the law. There was a disjoint between that particular legislation and the practice of Home Affairs. If the legislation and the court judgements could align with the standard operating procedures of Home Affairs, then the country would be in a much better position. A lot of issues were baseline issues that did not seem to be a problem on the face of it. However, in the practice of it, it was a big problem.
The Chairperson asked what it did do as an organisation when CCL got cases where children were never documented.
Ms Thoka said that this was what had the CCL running around. The first thing it would do was try and find evidence from other people who corroborate the child's existence. The child went to school even though they were undocumented, which meant that there were reports. It could get statements from teachers, family and neighbours. It would try and get corroborating documents to draw a picture that this person existed. Those documents were taken to Home Affairs, and then CCL hoped that Home Affairs say yes.
The Chairperson thanked the Centre for Child Law for its submission.
Ms Alana Bailey, Deputy CEO, AfriForum, made the presentation to the Committee. AfriForum believed that this Bill should be revised comprehensively, as some of the proposed amendments, particularly concerning the admissions and language policies, opposed the core of the public school model and the principles and objectives on which the South African Schools Act, 1996 (SASA), is founded. These amendments run the risk of being declared constitutionally unlawful if they were to be adopted. The presentation primarily focused on admissions and admission policy and language policy. In AfriForum’s opinion, several of the proposed amendments in the Bill threaten the success and optimal functioning of public schools. Their implementation could discourage parents of learners from being involved and assuming responsibility for the organisation, governance and funding of schools in partnership with the state. Increased state control could undermine trust and confidence in the public school system. Parents without a say in their children's education will simply seek ways to leave the system.
The state is involved in education at the macro level. It should not interfere at the grassroots micro level of the existing functioning and powers of SGBs unless national norms and standards are not complied with. In this regard, the current provisions of the legislation, read in conjunction with crucial judgements of South African courts, provide adequate safeguards to intervene where necessary.
Despite the promise of 1994 that language and culture would be protected in the new dispensation, very little has been done to do so. The amendments in this Bill, specifically those on the admission and language policies, in AfriForum’s opinion, amount to a calculated attack on Afrikaans education while offering no relief to the speakers of other indigenous languages. Should these amendments be implemented, it will constitute an irreparable, unilateral and permanent breach by the government of the constitutional settlement reached in 1994.
AfriForum, therefore, urged the Parliamentary Committee to recommend a comprehensive redraft of the Bill.
Dr Boshoff said that there was still the situation of a nation that still needed to be built or was never going to be built. It was not a completed job. The South African government was still fiction. The BELA Bill was an important part of reaching that. There were different ways with which one regarded the nation. Those were the essential points on which people differed. Was there going to be territorial integrity of the South African State by everyone conforming to a particular dominant culture? Or were the inherent tensions going to be released by recognising the differences and accommodating that? Those were the two viewpoints. The people who agreed with the first view supported the BELA Bill because they believed it provided more momentum to conformity than the 1996 Act. In contrast, the other people wanted to be accommodated in their culture and different identities. Those people did not like the BELA Bill as much for the same reason. It also involved other models of empowerment. Did one get broad-based empowerment by using one's language and identity? That was the poor white solution of the 1930s. Or was there going to be broad-based empowerment by mastering the dominant language? That was when people said that as soon as they could get their child into an English school, they would do so. Then they could conceptualise sophisticated ideas in English from the beginning. There were two opposing views on how one got broad-based community empowerment. He picked up a perception of a kind of Afrikaans exceptionalism. Afrikaners perceived that Afrikaans schools were singled out, but that was not the case. That was what he picked up last week. The question was asked why certain presenters felt that way, and the presenter answered because it was his experience. Did AfriForum have a similar experience? Did AfriForum, through its court proceedings, use language as a barrier to racial exclusion?
Mr Siwela asked how the government could protect learners and parents who were excluded due to single language school policy. Was AfriForum opposed to multilingualism in schools, as this promoted the nation's diversity? Why was the organisation's focus only on the interests of the minority group's needs? Why was it not focusing on the majority who were impacted by the inequality in the education system? What were the proposals of AfriForum in reaching diverse schooling and eradicating institutional racism, which continued to thrive in the education system in various forms?
Mr Nodada said that there was an argument that single-medium schools excluded particular learners or deliberately used their policies to exclude certain learners from accessing those specific schools. He noted the research on the impacts of mother tongue education and how it brought about quality education. There was a contrasting argument stating South Africa was diverse and that there needed multilingualism in schools to promote diversity. By doing that then, maybe schools should have more than one language. Diversity was important, but should that come at the expense of quality education? How would AfriForum balance the right to mother tongue education with the freedom of quality education without using language policies to exclude particular learners?
Ms Adoons said that when the process of the Bill had begun, AfriForum had noted that the processing of the Bill needed to be stopped in its totality. Now it had made a presentation and had a different view on some of the clauses, not all of them. What had changed from rejecting the Bill and now challenging only some of the clauses?
The Chairperson said that the presentation mentioned that some amendments ran the risk of being constitutionally unlawful. How did AfriForum come to that conclusion? Further, the presentation expressed doubt about the constitutionality of specific clauses. Was there a clause in the Bill that AfriForum welcomed? Or was everything proposed to be amended not supposed to be amended? The presentation sounded as if AfriForum was accepting the process. It had doubts about the process, but it received the procedure at the same time. Was she analysing AfriForum wrongly or correctly? The country was very multicultural. What was AfriForum’s view of the country’s diversity? How did AfriForum define the country's diversity? Should people of a particular culture and language be on their own land? Did AfriForum believe in transformation? If it did, what was that agenda? Did AfriForum embrace the other languages of this country? Did it believe there was a place for those other languages in the country? AfriForum noted issues of constitutionality and many things that it doubted. Was it not a threat to say that if things did not go AfriForum’s way, then its view was unconstitutional and had to be taken to court? That was her interpretation of what AfriForum was saying.
Ms Bailey said that AfriForum was not threatening. It pointed out the risks based on the senior legal opinion it had received on the BELA Bill. That was why AfriForum was here, to point out the existing risks. It was here to make sure a policy was not implemented, and then it went to court, and some rights were violated. This was a preventative exercise. That was why there were some amendments that AfriForum found were unconstitutional. It believed the amendments were unconstitutional because its legal advisor had compared them to many of the rulings of the Constitutional Court. It was not based on interpretation. It was based on rulings that had already been made. Very often, AfriForum was accused of waging 'court-fare'. AfriForum went to court because, in general, legislation tended to be vague, especially the Constitution. It tended to be vague. Factual content was given to that law by going to court and getting clarification on those vague stipulations within the legislation. AfriForum had gone through a very long and exhaustive process of language policy at universities. Where South Africa was now was a very different position from where it was when the Constitution was adopted in 1996. A lot of the vague elements about, like, a university, for example. Was it a public institution or not? Who gets the right to decide on language policy? Those questions were clarified through a long, exhaustive, expensive legal process comprising several cases. If it could prevent the BELA Bill goes through the same process, then a lot would already be achieved for South Africa. She answered the question of why it now responded to only certain clauses. These were the clauses that AfriForum believed had the greatest potential of being considered unconstitutional. She discussed diversity. It was the country's greatest asset, and it was the thing that was being destroyed with the greatest speed. The country was wiping out its indigenous language, Afrikaans, at a slower pace because, for many years, it had so much favour. The other languages were being wiped out at an incredible pace. It was about time that something needed to be done about that. AfriForum was forming alliances with many other language communities because their language was not getting the same prominence on the SABC as other languages. Venda was an example. The news reports were at a time of the day which did not suit the community. AfriForum’s problem was that diversity was not being recognised in South Africa. The transformation did not mean everyone had to become good second-language English speakers. Transformation meant that everyone's culture and language should be recognised. Without that, polarisation in the country would not improve. The dropout rate would increase in schools and universities. Universities often spoke about how expensive it was to have more than one language. That was the first rationale. She noted that the budget for Afrikaans was often given to the English budget. There was not much tolerance for students who spoke other languages on campuses apart from English. In the end, there was a huge dropout rate, but nobody ever equated the cost of that dropout rate with the cost of multilingual education. It could be a parallel medium at a tertiary level but in schools, there needed to be single-main mother language education in primary and secondary schools. If that did not happen, then the speakers of the ten indigenous languages, of which she included Afrikaans, were not going to appreciate their languages, and they were not going to appreciate the cultural richness that came with those languages. Ms Bailey said that the Chairperson was welcome to join AfriForum. It had a lot of members from other language communities. AfriForum warned them that the admin language was Afrikaans, but those people did not care as long as someone promoted what AfriForum did. She noted an organisation which promoted indigenous languages called ILAF that was coming to the fore now. Apart from them and a few individuals who spoke out about real multilingualism, very few people addressed what the term should do and mean. She noted that one could not legislate unity, which was what the Bill was trying to do. In many countries, it was seen that there was a dominant language which tried to regulate the other languages. One could not legislate language and force everyone else into that model. It was not going to work in the long run. It was AfriForum’s experience that Afrikaans schools were being targeted. She did not have experience with other language schools. Afrikaans schools complained to AfriForum from all provinces. Those schools have reported that officials have said that they found it disgusting that only Afrikaans-speaking people were there. That would be a very diverse school. It was not a school with white kids only. It was divisive because the pupils in the school felt that they were not good enough and were being targeted. It was cause for concern. In its court papers, it did not focus on race. It always focused on what was available for people who did not want to study in Afrikaans. At the University of the Free State, there was parallel medium instruction, so every student had a choice between either Afrikaans or English. They were not forced to take either the English or the Afrikaans. They believed that the fundamentals of maths and the natural sciences should be laid down in the mother language, so it was not as concerned about universities as it was about schools. She responded to whether schools excluded pupils to protect a specific race. No, because where that happened, there had also been court cases. The court ensured that the students were protected against being excluded based on race. She discussed how AfriForum saw schooling. The ideal model would be single medium schooling where the children there were the ones who chose to attend or were the ones whose mother language it was. Sometimes people preferred to give up their mother language. Many Afrikaners did that because they believed English was the aspiration language. She disagreed because she believed that the mother language was the best for everyone in the long run. The reality was that in some areas, Afrikaans-speaking people were decreasing. Then a parallel medium school of another language and Afrikaans was the ideal solution because there could not be empty schools. There were empty schools in many areas where no Afrikaans-speaking people because the parents rejected the school based on quality. The parents flocked to where there were Afrikaans schools. The Department did not do enough to turn around 80% of dysfunctional schools. AfriForum was concerned about that. She provided examples of English medium schools, bypassed by parents who went to Afrikaans-speaking schools because they wanted the quality that Afrikaans-speaking schools offered. Parents did not always correlate the mother language with the quality of education offered there. AfriForum was also concerned about schools that were forced to take in more and more students. There could not be quality education if there were 50 children in a classroom. She saw a school in Makhanda with 120 children in one classroom. The teacher was off sick leave, and the teacher's husband was reading stories to the children to keep them quiet. These were the things happening in South Africa, and there were the things that should be spoken more about. She discussed the question of diversity versus quality. That was a difficult question. The first choice of parents would be quality, irrespective of the language. She noted that in the Chinese school that was opened in Pretoria. Many parents enrolling their children there did not even know where China was, but they wanted the quality that that school offered. Suppose only quality education was provided, but Government did not provide education that took note of diversity and offered other language education. In that case, the quality would drop, and dropouts would increase. She discussed the balance between mother tongue education and language policy. Another stream should be provided if the school lacks learners in that specific mother language. AfriForum opposed dual medium education because that was the shortest route to becoming a monolingual school. The parallel medium was slower if it was a well-managed school, like Paul Roos or Grey. If a school could maintain the parallel medium instruction for a long time. In the end, it was always the dominant language in that specific country, which in the case of South Africa was English, that would prevail at the expense of the mother language speakers. AfriForum looked at the specific clauses for this oral presentation that had the problem of unconstitutionality and the ones that carried the greatest risk. There were other clauses that it did find positive. For example, the one that CCL pointed out. She had the privilege of working with immigrants for 20 years, and she had an intimate understanding of how people's lives could be. Many of the clauses carried a lot of weight and had a lot of merits. Cutting out pieces of the Act became a very destructive exercise because the validity of some of the amendments may disappear in the process. That was why the Bill needed to be revised dramatically. If possible, AfriForum wanted the Bill to return to the drawing board. That would be a good idea. She noted that the worst drafting was when one drafted for the exception. That was what happened in many cases. One could not equate a school that had a wine auction to get funds so that it did not have to depend on the State with a school where the teachers or the pupils or all of them were intoxicated from time to time. She noted that South Africa was a complex country. Sometimes the amendments did not take this complex country into account, with all its diverse communities regarding their economic, cultural, religious and social backgrounds.
The Chairperson thanked AfriForum for its submission.
Mr Matthew Parks, a Parliamentary Coordinator at COSATU, made the presentation to the Committee. COSATU welcomed the tabling of the BELA Bill at Parliament, and it provides for critical interventions, particularly requiring learners to attend Grade R from age 6. Whilst COSATU supports many of these provisions, it remained concerned about some critical omissions and, in particular, the potential for misinterpretation of some provisions when they are implemented. The presentation discussed, among others, the provisions relating to attendance, disruptions, admissions, languages, diversity, drugs and weapons, liquor sales and school governing bodies.
Requirements to attend Grades R to 9
• COSATU welcomes the requirement for all children aged 6 to attend Grade R and Grade R’s inclusion as part of the formal school curriculum.
• COSATU is concerned that Government did not extend the required school years from Grades 9 to 12.
• Large numbers of learners drop out of school in Grades 9 and/ or 15, condemned to low-paying jobs with few career prospects. Creating a large pool of uneducated workers is hampering the economy's growth.
• COSATU Proposal to amend the required school period from Grade R to Grade 12.
• The Federation appreciates the need to protect schools from disruptions, e.g. political protests, as cited in Bill's explanatory memorandum.
• However, the Federation is concerned that the wording in clause 2(c)(7) is dangerously vague and criminalises any disruption of schooling.
• This may have the effect of criminalising teachers & school staff from exercising their labour rights, including the right to strike, picket, and protest.
• The provision should be clarified that it recognises education workers’ constitutional and labour rights to picket, protest and strike; such actions are excluded from section 2(c)(7).
COSATU welcomed the BELA Bill as the product of extensive deliberations. The Bill’s provisions are long overdue and will make a positive impact in many areas. There are vital provisions, however, which must be fixed, e.g. recognising education workers’ constitutional and labour rights to picket. There is a need to remove provisions allowing liquor sale at school premises. Parliament should boldly amend the provision allowing children to leave school at 15 years and increase it to Grade 12.
Ms van Zyl said that apart from extending the required school years to Grade 12, how would COSATU address the high dropout rate? She discussed the provision of financial reports. Did COSATU think the Department could fully engage with and process the influx of information it received? She discussed admission and language policy. How would COSATU propose to address HODs, being both players and referees, regarding these policies? She discussed disruptions. COSATU made mention of limiting the rights of teachers to be able to picket and protest as well as the right to strike. Was it COSATU's view that this should affect children during school hours when they should be learning and receiving teaching? A picket or strike would be at the expense of the children. Was there not another way of raising frustration without disadvantaging the children when the issue was not with them but with the Government?
Dr Boshoff asked if COSATU had considered the work done in the Department of Higher Education and Training after Grade 9. COSATU suggested only making education compulsory until Grade 12. Was that the only alternative to the present suggestion? The presentation referred to Afrikaans in the North West and Limpopo. He noted that there used to be about nine Afrikaans schools in 1996, and at least four were now double medium. For a parent to put a child in an Afrikaans school, they would need to pass eight or nine English schools. One quickly made assumptions and passed them on as facts. He noted that there were ten, and the tenth was double medium.
Mr Siwela asked what was COSATU's perspective on the argument that having required documentation in the Bill as a requirement for admission would lead to the exclusion of vulnerable learners.
Ms Adoons discussed COSATU's proposal that schooling should be compulsory until Grade 12. Did the Department of Higher Education and Training have the capacity to respond to the demand for further education and training after Grade 9? She discussed the use of alcohol in schools. How should the Department manage instances of alcohol use in events that helped schools generate revenue?
The Chairperson discussed COSATU's recommendation for Grades R to 12. Was COSATU aware of the Department's school leaving certificate? South Africa had a very high unemployment rate, particularly among the youth of this country. How was COSATU proposing to deal with this problem? What contribution had COSATU made to the General Education Certificate, as not all learners could reach the matric phase? What was COSATU's view on wilful protest during the examinations?
Mr Parks said that schools were always difficult because they were about society's future. He discussed the Grade 12 issue. The 44% unemployment rate was a real crisis in society. The youth unemployment rate was even worse. It was 60 to 70%. This created a continuous cluster of unemployed persons, which was a ticking time bomb. The violence in July 2021, aside from the criminal and political orchestration, was a result of the sea of poverty, absolute despair and hopelessness. It could happen again. South Africans should not think that what happened in other countries could not happen here. Concerning learners, were we providing people who could be employed in the economy? South Africa was not. Businesses were struggling to find skilled labour. Society thought it was alright for students in Grades 9 and above to go and do whatever they wanted. They would have a certificate, but what was the certificate worth? Most job requirements wanted at least a matric certificate. With a Grade 9 certificate, the learner would struggle to get into further training. This was an injustice to these young people. If a learner wanted to leave in Grade 9, then there needed to be a requirement that that learner went to a TVET College. The learner could not just go home and play video games. There needed to be some sort of education and qualification. There needed to be some sort of practical skills. Not everybody wanted to go to university. Not everybody needed to go to university, but they needed to have some qualifications and some skills. Society needed to decide that people needed to have qualifications and skills. So, either a learner would complete Grade 12, or the learner would get into some TVET College for some training. COSATU was very worried about the quality of the TVET Colleges. The money spent on TVET Colleges was very worrying. He noted this year's Medium-Term Budget Statement, in terms of targets and terms of enrolment of TVET Colleges, it was quite far behind. The quality of training was very suspect. He noted that one would find significant corruption and wasteful expenditure levels within SETA. What was being provided now was not enough for economic growth and the skills that society needed. Why was the government rushing to send young children into the economy when they should be focused on education and training? So that when they did reach the economy, they would be able to provide for their family and their children. He highlighted the dropouts in schools from Grade R to Grade 12. Society was not doing justice to its learners. One of the problems that needed to be addressed was the decreasing number of teachers and the teacher-learner ratio. He noted the infrastructure of schools. There was still the need to address sanitation and eradicate mud schools. Every year Government was shifting the goalposts. This year there was a new commitment that would be made. He noted the issue of security at schools. There should not be teachers in primary schools who are afraid for their safety. Children would assault the teacher when the teacher reprimanded them for not doing their homework. Society should not be comfortable with overcrowding in township schools or rural areas. Every year schools in townships or rural areas struggled to receive textbooks on time. Parents also needed to take responsibility because teachers and Government could only do so much. He discussed the financial reports. The government needed to invest in the capacity. These processes could not be the shortcut. There was an alarming level of corruption in schools. The amount of money might be relatively small, but everyone has learned how far corruption has spread in society over the last decade. If it were not addressed, then the State would collapse. It might be difficult, and there might be teething problems, but the Government had to capacitate. He discussed the right to protest. He noted that the number of strikes that have been happening a year has been decreasing. It was the lowest it had been in a decade. The last public service strike was about 12 years ago. It was rare to have public service strikes that were in schools. He noted the teacher's unions and the public service wage agreements. Teachers were the most pragmatic and the most moderate form of trade union. Teachers unions, last year, were one of the first trade unions to sign the wage agreement. He noted that strikes should not interfere with school learning and exams. He noted that it was a constitutional right for any worker to strike. There was a thing such as a protected strike. The worker could not be victimised or dismissed. There was a process which resulted in a strike. It did not just happen on one day. He noted strikes for teachers were quite rare. He noted that there were picketing rules where people could only picket within 50 metres of the entrance. One could not vandalise or disrupt. COSATU aimed to try and address the concerns before it went to that point. He discussed Afrikaans schools. He noted that many Afrikaans schools already accommodated dual instruction. There should not be a concern there. COSATU had seen incidents over the years where Afrikaans schools had become a problem at times. Society needed to have rules in everybody's interests on rules, guidelines and how things needed to be managed. COSATU wanted an inclusive society and did not think that there should not be Afrikaans schools. There was a role for them. People had a right to mother tongue education. There needed to be more schools accommodating first language needs. South Africa was a very diverse society, and those accommodations needed to be made. However, in certain areas, there were just certain schools that could not accommodate learners. There needed to be a balanced, inclusive approach. He discussed the sale of alcohol. It was a sensitive point. COSATU did not want to ban alcohol. He noted that the country had a real problem with alcohol abuse. The learners were very impressionable. There was a real problem of alcohol abuse. He noted that when the sale of alcohol was banned over Christmas and New Year last year, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital did not have a single alcohol-related intake over New Year's Eve for the first time. COSATU believed that Government should not be sending a message that alcohol was a good thing for young people. He discussed the ability of schools to police issues. It was difficult for teachers to police which students were present and not present. He responded to the issue of the role of COSATU in addressing unemployment. COSATU and teachers' union were all about teaching learners about receiving an education so that when they entered society, they would be able to find work to further their education. He noted workshops and camps held to help matriculants during the exam period. They promoted buying locally produced goods to promote jobs. He noted public and private investment in the local economy. COSATU played a role in developing economic recovery plans. In every part that COSATU could contribute, it would in growing the economy and the State. It was not only the role of Government or business. All of us had a role to play. COSATU wanted to see society evolve.
The Chairperson thanked COSATU for its submission.
SA Institute for Race Relations Submission
Mr Martin van Staden, Deputy Head Policy Research, SA Institute of Race Relations, made a video presentation to the Committee. The video presentation provided a summary of the SA Institute of Race Relations’ submission.
(Please see the submission document for further information.)
The Chairperson thanked the Members and all those in attendance. The Committee will be meeting again next week. The Committee will be processing another eight submissions from other organisations next week. The process would conclude on 29 November.
The meeting was adjourned.
- Media Statement: Basic Education Portfolio Committee Hears More Oral Submissions On Basic Education Laws Bill
- Section 27 Submission
- Section 27 Presentation
- SADTU Presentation
- Pestalozzi Trust Presentation
- IRR Submission
- FEDSAS Presentation
- FEDSAS’ Submission
- COSATU Submission
- COSATU Presentation
- Centre for Child Law Submission
- Cause for Justice Submission
- Cause for Justice Presentation
- AfriForum Submission
Mbinqo-Gigaba, Ms BP
Adoons, Ms NG
Boshoff, Dr WJ
Nodada, Mr BB
Siwela, Mr EK
Sukers, Ms ME
Van Zyl, Ms A M
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