Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill: Negotiating Mandate (cont)

Education (WCPP)

15 April 2024
Chairperson: Ms D Baartman (DA)
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Meeting Summary


The Standing Committee on Education continued its clause-by-clause review of the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) bill in a virtual meeting. After Members had engaged in detailed discussions, proposing amendments and expressing their views on each provision, the majority of the Members -- except for the ANC -- opposed the Bill, requesting its withdrawal.

The Chairperson ensured that all opinions were heard and decisions were made through a democratic voting process. She concluded by summarising the discussions, highlighting additional matters for inclusion in the negotiating mandate report, and addressing systemic issues overlooked by the Bill.

In its entirety, the DA and ACDP did not support the Bill and suggested it be withdrawn. The Committee would finalise its final negotiating mandate next week.

Meeting report

The Chairperson announced that the Committee was dealing with the clause-by-clause review of the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill sent by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), which had begun last Friday with the respective submissions, and was now continuing at clause 19.

She requested Members and departmental officials to introduce themselves before proceeding. Members Mr C Fry (DA), Ms P Harris (ANC) -- an alternate Member standing in for Mr K Sayed (ANC) -- Mr F Christians (ACDP) and Mr C Poole (DA), introduced themselves.

The officials from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) also introduced themselves.

Clause 19

The Chairperson asked if any Members wished to share views and comments, prompting Mr Fry to speak.

Mr Fry recalled their previous discussion about the appeal procedure for school governing bodies (SGBs). He proposed inserting a provision into the clause specifying a 30-day period for SGBs to appeal against a Head of Department's (HOD's) decision.

Mr Poole indicated his support for the proposal.

The Chairperson acknowledged Mr Poole's support, and asked if there were any other views. She expressed her satisfaction with the proposed 30-day period. With no further views expressed, she proceeded to call for a vote on the amendment.

The Chairperson stated that Members were in order to amend the appeal procedure from 14 days to 30 days.

Ms Harris expressed her acceptance of the clause with the proposed amendment, reiterating her initial input since Friday, which indicated the ANC's total support for the Bill.

Other Members voiced their support for the amendment.

The Chairperson proceeded to put the full clause, with the amendment, to a vote.

After confirming support for the clause with the amendment, the Chairperson also indicated her own support. She addressed the Procedural Officer, instructing them to ensure that Ms Harris's position, supporting the original clause, was correctly recorded.

Clause 20

Mr Poole expressed his support for the amendments, suggesting the inclusion of the additional provisions recommended by the WCED to monitor compliance with the proposed amendments by districts.

Mr Fry seconded Mr Poole's proposal, and Mr Christians also voiced his agreement with the proposal.

The Chairperson acknowledged their support, and expressed her own agreement with the proposed amendments. She noted that Ms Harris had already indicated her opposition to any amendments, which would be duly recorded.

She then proceeded to call for a vote on the full clause with the amendments.

Adv Romeo Maasdorp, Legal Advisor, Western Cape Provincial Parliament (WCPP), requested the Chairperson's indulgence, stating that he had left the meeting earlier on Friday, and was not familiar with the proposed amendments. He expressed his desire to share his views on the clause, asking for permission to do so without duplicating any points already raised.

The Chairperson explained that Mr Poole had suggested incorporating amendments from the WCED submission. She provided details on where to find these amendments within the document, specifically on page 28 (or paginated as 29), under clause 20. She clarified that the WCED proposed adding a provision for monitoring compliance by districts, which Mr Poole supported.

Adv Maasdorp expressed his appreciation for the clarification provided, but highlighted his concern regarding the clause displayed on their screens. He directed the colleagues' attention to the proposed substitute clause, particularly focusing on the introductory part, which stated that a Member must declare any direct or indirect personal and financial interest they may have.

He pointed out that while the clause mentions personal and financial interests, it introduces ambiguity by listing specific examples under personal interest (in an entity conducting business, a business or commercial financial entity or activity), and then under financial interest or other obligations.

He highlighted the discrepancy where clause 26(3) mentions withdrawal only in the case of a personal interest, not addressing financial interests or gifts/hospitality. He emphasised the need for clarity and certainty to avoid multiple interpretations, and suggested removing the words "personal and financial" from the introductory paragraph to broaden the scope of interests covered.

He proposed amending sub-clause 3 to include both personal and financial interests, aligning it with the broader definition provided in the introductory paragraph. This, he argued, would provide a comprehensive framework for member recusal, based on any direct or indirect interest.

He stressed that the issue was not merely technical but substantive, as it involved potential penalties or sanctions for members failing to withdraw. He expressed concern that under the current draft, a member might legitimately choose not to withdraw, based on the interpretation provided.

The Chairperson acknowledged Adv Maasdorp's concerns, but focused on the need to make technical amendments to ensure the correct reading of the clause.

She then addressed Mr James Ndlebe, Chief Director: Education Management and Governance, DBE, seeking his agreement to proceed with fixing the clause as written.

Mr Ndlebe expressed agreement with the legal advice from Adv Maasdorp.

The Chairperson summarised the proposed amendments, noting that the first one suggested by Mr Poole was to include the WCED's proposed amendment. The second proposed amendment involved fixing Clauses 3 and 4 to either reference both personal and financial interests, or to remove the word "personal" and refer back to clause one at the top. She then sought input from the Members.

Mr Fry expressed his agreement with the proposed amendment.

Mr Christians echoed Mr Fry's sentiment, stating that the amendment made for better reading and aligned with Adv Maasdorp's suggestion to either include both financial and personal interests or simply refer to interests without specifying.

The Chairperson acknowledged their comments and confirmed that Adv Maasdorp would draft the amendments in clear English. She expressed her own satisfaction with the proposed changes. She confirmed that Ms Harris opposed the amendments, but appreciated her understanding of the process.

Confirming the amendments to include the WCED's proposed amendment and the technical amendments aligning with section 26(1) of the Schools Act South Africa, the Chairperson called for Members' views.

 All the Members except Ms Harris voiced their support for the amendments.

The Chairperson noted that four Members supported the amendments, while one was opposed.

Clause 21

Members expressed their support for clause 21.

The Chairperson noted that Ms Harris had previously indicated her support as well, thus confirming unanimous support for clause 21.

Clause 22

Mr Fry raised concerns about Clause 22, suggesting that there might be an overlap with legislative functions in the provinces. He proposed deleting the amendment to ensure clarity and consistency across all provinces.

Other Members expressed their support for Mr Fry's proposal.

The Chairperson confirmed her agreement with the proposal to delete the clause entirely. She noted for the record that Ms Harris supported the clause. Since there were no amendments proposed, all Members were in support of Clause 22's deletion.

Clause 23

Mr Fry expressed his support for the clause, but proposed an additional amendment to specify that a principal may not be a member of the disciplinary committee.

Mr Poole and Mr Christians voiced their support for Mr Fry's proposal.

The Chairperson confirmed her own support for the amendment. She noted that Ms Harris had already indicated her opposition to any amendments, thus opposing this one as well.

The Chairperson then called for a vote on the full clause with the proposed amendment, to which all Members agreed.

Confirming the support for the amendment, the Chairperson noted that Ms Harris's position would be recorded as opposed due to her opposition to any amendments.

The Chairperson confirmed the conclusion of the discussion, and inquired if there were any changes in voting with Mr Sayed's arrival to the meeting.

Mr Sayed confirmed that there were no changes in voting, and that Ms Harris would continue to vote as before due to his intermittent attendance because of other engagements.

The Chairperson acknowledged Mr Sayed's response and reassured him, mentioning the importance of maintaining accuracy for the voting record to avoid any issues later on.

Clause 24

Members expressed their support for Clause 24.

The Chairperson inquired if any other Members had comments or views on Clause 24, thanking them for their input and confirming her own support for the clause. She noted that five Members supported Clause 24.

Clause 25

Mr Christians expressed his opposition to the closure of public schools as outlined in Clause 25, and advocated its deletion.

The Chairperson sought clarification, asking for confirmation that Mr Christians wanted the entire section 33 of the South African Schools Act (SASA) deleted, or just the specific amendment related to the closure of schools.

Mr Christians clarified that he wanted only the amendment concerning the closure of schools to be deleted from the Bill, not the entire section 33 of the SASA.

Mr Fry expressed his support for the clause, but proposed an additional amendment suggested by the South African National Council for the Blind. This amendment recommended that the closure of public schools with reduced registered learners, particularly those catering to learners with special education needs, should consider maintaining small classroom sizes of between ten to a maximum of 20 learners per class. He emphasised the importance of considering this amendment when discussing Clause 25.

Mr Poole expressed his support for the proposal.

Mr Christians reiterated his opposition to the clause, noting that Section 4 also discusses the closure of schools for specific reasons, and advocated the removal of the entire clause.

The Chairperson clarified her position, stating her support for the clause with the proposed amendments. She explained that her understanding of the amendment was to ensure that factors such as due notice, public hearings, and adequate time for decision-making would be considered before closing a school. She also supported including the recommendation from the National Council for the Blind regarding learners with special needs.

She summarised the two types of proposed amendments -- one to include learners with special needs in the factors for consideration, and the other to delete the entire Section 33 of the SASA. She then requested quick views from the Members to effectively organise the discussion on the clause.

Mr Fry suggested an amendment specifically addressing the requirements of learners with special needs.

Mr Poole expressed his support for Mr Fry's proposed amendment.

The Chairperson acknowledged their input, and checked if there were any questions regarding the proposed amendments. She clarified that those who wanted the entire clause deleted would be recorded as opposed to the amendments.

Mr Christians reiterated his discomfort with the closure of schools, despite the existing processes, expressing his preference for deleting the entire clause from both the Bill and the Act.

The Chairperson acknowledged Mr Christians' and Ms Harris's opposition to the amendments. She proceeded to put the full clause, including the new amendment from the South African National Council for the Blind, to the vote.

Three Members were in support.

The Chairperson noted the result, and registered Mr Christians and Ms Harris as opposed.

Clause 26

Mr Fry and Mr Poole expressed their support for Clause 26.

Mr Christians shared his support, referencing the motivation provided by the DBE during their discussion.

The Chairperson acknowledged their comments, and confirmed her own support for Clause 26, noting that all Members supported it.

Adv Maasdorp referred back to his initial briefing, where he had raised the issue of the role of a Member of the Executive Council (MEC) compared to that of an HOD, particularly concerning Clause 34. He expressed his view that operational, financial, and practical matters should be the responsibility of the HOD, while political authorities like an MEC should focus on more strategic issues. He emphasised the importance of consistency in allocating responsibilities within executive departments, especially in executive departments like education.

He directed Members' attention to clauses 32 (5), 34(4), and 36(2), highlighting that the HOD was primarily responsible for operational matters, while the MEC or Minister handled strategic and higher-level issues. He stressed the importance of maintaining consistency in the philosophy of accountability throughout legal instruments to avoid philosophical ambiguities and inconsistencies in lawmaking.

The Chairperson asked Mr  Ndlebe if he was agreeable to substituting "MEC" with "HOD."

Mr Ndlebe responded affirmatively, stating that they had discussed this previously, and the legal service had also indicated the same argument, which made sense to them.

The Chairperson then proceeded to inform the Members about the proposed amendment, asking if they were in agreement with substituting "MEC" for "HOD" for administrative clarity.

Mr Christians expressed his full support for the amendment, and was supported by Mr Poole and Mr Fry.

The Chairperson reiterated her support for the amendment, noting that Ms Harris would be recorded as opposed.

Ms Harris clarified her stance, stating that given the discussion at the DBE level, she believed that the administrative process should align with the head of administration. Despite her initial opposition, she indicated her support for the amendment.

The Chairperson confirmed Ms Harris's support for the amendment, and proceeded to put the full clause, including the amendment, to a vote.

All Members expressed their support for the amendment.

Clause 27

Mr Fry interjected, requesting to raise a point before proceeding. He expressed his support for Clause 27 with the suggestion of a technical change to replace "directions" with "directive."

Mr Poole, Mr Christians and Ms Harris indicated their support for Clause 27.

The Chairperson confirmed her support for Clause 27, along with the suggested technical change.

Clauses 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and 33

The Chairperson noted that the Members unanimously supported Clauses 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and 33, with no amendments.

Clause 34

Under Clause 34, the Chairperson proposed an addition related to how independent schools spend subsidies received from the government, focusing on ensuring proper fiscal guidance and accountability. She sought the Members' agreement on adding this provision.

The Members expressed their support for the proposed addition.

She asked Ms Harris if she would oppose the amendment.

Ms Harris clarified that she would support the amendment if it aimed to ensure proper accountability. However, she requested clarity on the specifics of the current amendment.

The Chairperson elaborated on the proposed amendment, highlighting the importance of the DBE, specifying how subsidies should be spent and their purpose, and mandating reporting on the outcomes of expenditure, along with related conditions. She mentioned her intention to forward the suggested sentence to the procedural office for clarification.

The Chairperson then thanked the Members for their support, and noted that Ms Harris had already indicated her support for the amendment, thus recording it as supported. She reiterated her plan to send the details to the procedural officers for further action.

Clause 35

Mr Fry expressed his opposition to Clause 35, citing the need for more comprehensive consultation and research before its approval. He raised concerns about Clause 51(16) potentially granting the Minister excessive power to regulate home education, which he deemed imprudent. Therefore, he opposed the clause.

Mr Christians echoed Mr Fry's sentiments, emphasising the effectiveness of the current homeschooling system and the satisfaction of stakeholders. He disagreed with the proposed amendment, stating that attempting to change something already working well was not advisable. As such, he also opposed the clause.

Mr Poole recommended substituting the current clause with the proposal from the WCED.

The Chairperson then located the WCED submission, and read out the proposed amendment, which suggested inserting new sub-sections four and five. Sub-section four outlined procedures for the HOD before conducting a pre-registration home education site visit, emphasising informing the parent, allowing them to make representations, considering those representations, and providing written reasons for the decision. Sub-section five focused on ensuring that the collection and processing of personal information during such visits complied with the Protection of Personal Information Act  (POPIA) of 2013.

The Chairperson sought the views of the Members regarding Mr Poole's recommendation to include this amendment from the WCED.

Mr Christians expressed his opposition to the proposed amendment, including the WCED's recommendation. He said he did not support any changes to the clause.

Mr Fry voiced his support for the amendment suggested by the WCED.

The Chairperson also expressed her support for the WCED's proposed amendment.

Ms Harris indicated her support for the clause as it currently stands without any amendments.

The Chairperson acknowledged the positions of the Members, noting that the amendment would be supported, but opposed by Mr Christians and Ms Harris.

Adv Lynn Coleridge-Zils, Director: Policy Coordination, WCED, expressed gratitude to the Chairperson for allowing the clarification. She highlighted another proposed insertion from the WCED, specifically referring to sub-section 2, and suggested the inclusion of a Roman numeral 4 (iv) on page 32 of Annex A. The proposed addition stated that the home education programme should maintain standards that were not inferior to those of comparable public schools or public educational institutions. Advocating the inclusion of this provision, she acknowledged the Chairperson's attention to detail in addressing this matter.

The Chairperson clarified the proposed amendment, stating that in sub-section 2 of Clause 51 of the Act, as amended by Clause 35, the Department proposed inserting Roman numeral 4 (iv). Instead of specifying that the home education programme must not be inferior to the standard determined in the national curriculum statement, it should state that the proposed home education programme would maintain standards that were not inferior to those at comparable public education institutions. She then sought confirmation from Adv Coleridge-Zils regarding the accuracy of the reading.

She presented the proposed new insertion, which would retain Roman numeral 3 (iii) and introduce a new Roman numeral 4 (iv), as suggested by the WCED. Members were encouraged to review the details on page 31 of the WCED submission, which corresponded to page 32 when paginated. She then sought feedback from the Members regarding the proposed amendment.

The Chairperson noted Mr Fry and Mr Poole's agreement with the proposed amendment. However, Mr Christians expressed disagreement, proposing that section 51 of the SASA remain unchanged.

The Chairperson acknowledged Mr Christians' opposition, and noted that both he and Ms Harris opposed the amendment. She proceeded to put the full clause with the respective amendments, as per the WCED submission, without reading it in its entirety.

She clarified that Mr Fry and Mr Poole opposed the clause with the proposed amendments. She ensured their position was clear, indicating that they wanted the amendment and would oppose the clause if it was not accepted.

Mr Christians reiterated his stance that section 51 should remain unchanged without any amendments.

Ms Harris expressed support for the clause as it was.

The Chairperson acknowledged the Members positions, and noted that the clause was opposed with amendments, with the names of the opposing Members duly recorded.

Clause 36

Mr Fry suggested empowering the MEC to call for information from schools, which was suggested in the WCED submission.

Mr Poole expressed support for the amendment.

However, Mr Christians raised a concern about whether this power should rest with the HOD or the MEC, suggesting that it might be more appropriate for the HOD.

The Chairperson then sought clarification from Adv Coleridge-Zils regarding the preference of the WCED regarding this matter.

Adv Coleridge-Zils clarified that the intention was to include the MEC in the clause to empower them to request information from schools. Currently, the clause only mentions the HOD or the Director General (DG) of the DBE. The proposed insertion would ensure that both the MEC and the HOD had the authority to request information from schools.

Mr Christians said he supported this.

Adv Maasdorp raised concerns about the blurring of lines and the overlapping responsibilities between the MEC and the HOD regarding providing information from schools. He emphasised the importance of maintaining clear channels of communication and respecting the roles and responsibilities outlined in lawmaking. He questioned why the MEC should have the authority to override the HOD in requesting information from schools, as this could undermine the HOD's role and communication responsibilities within the Department. He sought clarification on the rationale behind including the MEC in this capacity, and urged Members to carefully consider the implications of such a decision.

Adv Coleridge-Zils provided reasons for including the MEC in the provision for requesting information from schools. She highlighted situations where appeals to the MEC might necessitate additional information from schools and media queries directed to the MEC's office. Including the MEC in the process would expedite the response to such queries and appeals. She emphasised that the MEC's office would make requests for information with just cause, ensuring that it was not a frivolous action.

The Chairperson acknowledged both perspectives regarding the inclusion of the MEC in the provision for requesting information from schools. She acknowledged the differing appeals processes in the SASA that required the MEC's involvement. However, she left the decision to the Members, allowing them to decide whether to include the MEC in the provision or not.

Mr Christians stated that he supported the view presented by the WCED and Adv Coleridge-Zils, indicating that it made sense to him.

Mr Poole and Mr Fry both expressed their agreement with the proposed amendment.

Ms Harris affirmed her support for the clause as it was written in the Bill, indicating alignment with its current form.

The Chairperson explained the clause with the proposed amendment, indicating that she was in favour of including the word "MEC" based on the clause's provision for information reasonably required. She then proceeded to read the amended clause, which would now include the MEC alongside the Head of Department and Director General.

Members supported the clause with amendments.

Clause 38

The Chairperson referred to the WCED's submission, specifically directing attention to pages 33 and 34, with the understanding that the pagination should correspond to pages 34 and 35. She noted a recommendation pertaining to sub-clause 1B, advocating its substitution with an alternative sub-clause. The proposed sub-clause delineated provisions concerning the state's liability when a public school possessed insurance cover for a particular activity or event. She succinctly summarised the proposed sub-clause, articulating the parameters of the state's liability and indemnification in instances where damage or loss occurred and was covered by insurance.

She noted that all Members, except Ms Harris, were in support.

She proceeded to suggest that the full clause be put to the vote. In the event that the NCOP did not uphold the proposed amendment to clause 38, she recommended that the Members oppose the clause. Therefore, she proposed to register the stance as "oppose with amendment" if the amendment was not accepted.

Four members supported this proposal, while one did not. The Procedural Officer would ensure the appropriate language was used to reflect this decision.

Clause 39

Mr Christians expressed his opposition to Clause 39, stating that it seeks to empower the Minister to promulgate regulations under Section 61 of the South African Schools Act, with which he disagrees.

The Chairperson echoed his sentiment, expressing her own opposition due to the vague nature of the clause and concerns about its potential impact on provincial powers.

Mr Poole and Mr Fry also stated their opposition to the clause.

Adv Maasdorp acknowledged the Committee's legitimate concerns about the vagueness of Clause 39 and the broad powers it grants to the Minister or MEC regarding regulations. He referred to the Dawood case, which addresses the issue of ministerial discretion in making regulations. This case emphasised the need for lawmakers to circumscribe the parameters within which regulations could be made. He suggested that lawmakers are responsible for refining it and providing clear parameters for regulation-making rather than outright rejecting the clause due to its vagueness. He proposed tightening the provisions to specify the scope of regulations that the Minister or MEC could make, ensuring they aligned with the lawmakers' intentions. He emphasised the importance of the Dawood case in guiding lawmakers in this process.

The Chairperson expressed concern that despite requesting the draft version of the regulations, the Committee had not received them. Without knowing the specifics of what the Minister intended to regulate, it was inappropriate for the Committee to grant such broad powers. She stressed that the Minister had not provided adequate information about the regulations, even though the request was made back in February. She questioned the urgency of granting regulatory powers without transparency, and stressed the importance of seeing the draft documents before making any decisions. She turned to Mr Ndlebe for his input on the matter.

Mr Ndlebe clarified that the role of making regulations fell under the purview of lawmakers, not the Minister. He explained that the Minister may initiate the process, but ultimately it was the responsibility of lawmakers to enact regulations. The clause in question served as an enabling provision to start the process of regulation-making. He pointed out that there were significant gaps in regulations within the sector, as evidenced by the list of items mentioned in the clause, such as the management of learner pregnancies. He emphasised the importance of stakeholder engagement in the regulatory process.

The Chairperson interjected firmly, holding up a copy of the South African Schools Act, and addressed Mr Ndlebe's assertions, stating that what he was saying now was not legally correct. She proceeded to quote Section 61 of the SASA, emphasising that it explicitly grants the Minister the authority to make regulations. She guided the Committee through the relevant sections of the Act, highlighting the proposed amendment to Section 61 outlined in the Bill.

She explained the implications of the proposed amendment, clarifying that it aimed to enable the Minister to initiate regulations, and pointed out the absence of a requirement for parliamentary approval of such regulations. Stressing the importance of clarity and informed decision-making, she expressed disappointment at the failure to receive the draft regulations from the DBE or the Minister, despite previous requests.

Acknowledging Adv Maasdorp's input on the need for clear parameters in regulatory authority, she reiterated the Committee's role in ensuring that regulations were tightly defined within legislative frameworks. She stressed the importance of understanding the implications of granting the Minister additional regulatory powers.

She urged Members to consider whether they were satisfied with the proposed amendment, given the absence of the draft regulations. She emphasised the need for clarity and transparency in decision-making, and sought approval to proceed to a vote on the matter, having thoroughly discussed the issues at hand.

Mr Christians, Mr Fry, and Mr Poole opposed the amendment, and the Chairperson acknowledged their opposition. She voiced her own opposition to Clause 39.

Ms Harris expressed her support for the Bill and the clause in its current form, as per the proposed amendment bill.

The Chairperson summarised the positions, stating that section 39 would be opposed by the four aforementioned Members, while Ms Harris supported it.

Clauses 40, 41, 42, 43 and 44

All Members were in support of these clauses.  

Clause 45

Mr Christians expressed his support for the proposed amendment.

Mr Fry voiced his opposition to the amendment, citing the need for clarity regarding the reasoning behind it.

Mr Poole and the Chairperson agreed with Mr Fry's concerns.

Ms Harris, however, supported the proposed amendment.

Clauses 46, 47 and 48

Members were in unanimous support of the Clause.

Clause 49

Mr Fry opposed the clause and proposed the following amendments:

  • Firstly, he suggested confining the prohibition to state employees specifically holding departmental posts, rather than SGB posts.
  • Secondly, he proposed allowing educators who were state employees to submit applications for exemption, provided that necessary safeguards were in place. He emphasised that the Department should regulate these staff positions accordingly.

Mr Christians and Mr Poole supported Mr Fry's proposal.

The Chairperson agreed to oppose the clause with amendments, noting that it aligned with the WCED proposal.

Ms Harris expressed opposition to the amendment, stating support for the clause as currently captured.

The Chairperson then proceeded to put the clause with amendments, as suggested by Mr Fry, to the Members.

Clause 50

Mr Fry stated his opposition to clause 50, citing concerns about potentially increased provincial powers, and suggesting that such matters were more appropriately determined at the provincial level.

Other Members, except for Ms Harris, expressed support for Mr Fry's position.

The Chairperson also indicated her opposition to the clause, noting that it would be recorded as four Members in opposition and one Member in support.

Clauses 51, 52, 53 and 54

The Members unanimously supported these Clauses.

General comments and full vote

The Chairperson invited comments from the Members regarding the Bill in general before proceeding to the full vote. She mentioned that she had additional financial matters to include, but suggested they could be summarised during the meeting and submitted to the Procedural Officer later. She opened the floor for any comments or concerns from the Members.

Mr Fry said that the Bill should not be supported, and should be withdrawn.

Ms Harris affirmed the African National Congress’s full support for the entire Bill and the minor amendments, noting clear explanations for where those changes were made. She reiterated their complete endorsement of the Bill.

Mr Christians voiced his opposition to the Bill and requested its withdrawal, echoing Mr Fry's proposal, which he seconded.

Mr Poole also expressed support for Mr Fry's proposal and Mr Christians' stance.

The Chairperson also opposed the Bill, requesting its withdrawal. She asked if there were any additional points to include in the negotiating mandate report, beyond what had already been discussed in the clauses. If none, she would proceed.

She suggested including two additional matters regarding the Bill in the report. Firstly, she emphasised the need for effective regulation of online and blended learning, considering its increasing popularity and the current lack of sufficient regulations in that space. She acknowledged ongoing consultations, but stressed the importance of addressing this issue in the report.

Secondly, she highlighted the lack of protection for learners, especially in cases of sexual abuse, where learners were often victims. She recommended that the Bill be amended to protect these learners adequately.

Members agreed to both points without objections.

The Chairperson raised concerns about systemic issues overlooked by the Bill, particularly regarding problems faced by schools nationwide. She listed issues such as high dropout rates, inadequate resources -- including teachers, classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and information communication technology (ICT) infrastructure -- as well as unsafe infrastructure conditions, such as dilapidated buildings, asbestos use, and lack of water. She also noted the absence of measures addressing poor quality teaching, where some teachers may lack qualifications in their respective subjects. She asked for Members' opinions on including these matters in the report.

Members did not raise objections to including these points in the report.

The Chairperson then proceeded to discuss the submission from the South African National Council of the Blind, which highlighted several areas where the Bill lacked provisions for learners with special needs. These included access to textbooks and educational literature in accessible formats, provision of assistive devices during exams and for homework, orientation and mobility training, second chance matric opportunities, transportation arrangements, and utilising digital broadcasting mechanisms for online learning without data costs.

Members did not oppose including these financial concerns in the report.

The Chairperson said she would not delve into detailed financial matters, as the information had already been presented in three separate presentations by the Financial and Fiscal Commission (FFC), the Department of Basic Education, and the National Treasury. She emphasised that the Bill lacked proper costing and funding commitments for its implementation, and no allocated budget had been designated for its intended implications. She expressed concern that proceeding with the Bill without addressing these financial considerations would be irresponsible and irrational. Therefore, she requested the procedural officer to summarise the key points from those presentations in the report.

She stated her intention to send her proposal via email to the Procedural Officer for the report.

The Procedural Officer confirmed her appreciation for the input, and suggested following the correct procedure by sharing the report with the Committee for approval. She referred to the standing rules and the process followed during the previous negotiating mandate on 27 March.

The Chairperson confirmed that the procedure was in order, and proposed adding one more matter to the report. She expressed concern about the restricted public participation timeline and the lack of responsiveness from the NCOP. Despite these challenges, she emphasised the importance of documenting the procedures followed by the province to ensure that the people of the Western Cape had ample opportunity to be heard.

Committee report: Negotiating mandate on BELA Bill

The Chairperson requested the Members' agreement for the Procedural Officer to summarise the public participation section in the report. With no objections from the Members, she proceeded to read out the report for approval. She mentioned that additional information would be sent via email for members to review.

The report, titled "Committee Report: Negotiating Mandate on the Standing Committee on Education on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill [B2B-2022], dated 15 April 2024," outlined the Committee's consideration of the Bill and the positions taken by the different parties. The report recommended that the Western Cape Provincial Parliament Standing Committee on Education formally endorse certain actions. The Chairperson clarified the wording for consistency and then presented the report to the Members for approval.

Mr Fry moved the adoption of the report, which was seconded by Mr Poole and Mr Christians. The report was duly adopted.

The Chairperson expressed gratitude for the adoption of the report, and requested the Procedural Officer to compile the summarised comments for circulation among the Members. She asked for a timeline for sending and receiving materials.

The Procedural Officer said she would complete the compilation and forward it to all Members for approval by 14:00. She also mentioned the need for Adv Maasdorp's input, if any, before finalising and sending it off to the NCOP's Select Committee.

The Chairperson proposed a timeline, suggesting Members have until 08:00 the next day to review and approve via email. The Members agreed with the proposed timeline.

The Chairperson then checked with the Procedural Officer to see if anything was missing regarding the negotiating mandate.

The Procedural Officer confirmed that everything had been covered. She reminded the Committee that the final mandate was due on 24 April, to be submitted to the NCOP Select Committee. She proposed scheduling a meeting on 23 April to finalise the mandate and address any outstanding minutes.

The Chairperson thanked the Members for their participation and commitment to their communities.

The meeting was adjourned.


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