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BELA Bill’s language policies spark concerns

In a video circulating on social media about the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, the Gauteng MEC for Education at the time, Panyaza Lesufi, dismissed claims that he attacked Afrikaans.

In light of an old video circulating that sparked concern about the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill, Gauteng MEC for Education at the time and Gauteng Premier, Panyaza Lesufi, dismissed claims that he attacked Afrikaans.

In the video, the individual pointed out that government would have the final say on language, admissions, and curriculum policies at schools.

Lesufi clarified allegations that he sought to attack Afrikaans and mother-tongue education in schools with the BELA Bill.

The DA implied this during their picket outside the Gauteng Education offices on July 5 last year.

A statement from the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) said the responsibility for determining and reviewing legislation in the basic education sector at a national level lay with the Minister of Basic Education.

This was done via consultation with stakeholders like unions, the student governing bodies, all HoDs of Provincial Departments of Education and the Council of Education Ministers (CEM), which includes MECs from all nine provinces and a DA minister who sits on the CEM.

The GDE said all nine provinces had sanctioned the amendments proposed by the BELA Bill, and they were tabled in Parliament. As such, the department said it was odd that the Bill was referred to as a ‘Lesufi Bill’.

The Bill

“The BELA Bill is a national policy not exclusive to Gauteng. As such, the minister is the one who initiates the Bill’s introduction to the National Assembly. Before this, a consultation happens with stakeholders, and a socio-economic impact assessment establishes the impact of the proposed amendment,” the statement read.

The GDE said the Bill was subjected to checks by the State Law advisors for policy and legal compliance. It is then tabled for cabinet’s approval to invite public comments through a gazette.

In addition, Parliament has the right to subject the Bill to further public commentary and scrutiny.

“All public comments received are analysed and considered for inclusion in the proposed amendments. Once the process is complete, the draft Bill is amended, taking into account relevant comments from the public and subjected to compliance checks by the State Law Advisors,” the department stated.

The GDE stated that the passing of the draft Bill was currently in Parliament and all concerned parties who wanted to avoid submitting written comments needed to raise their concerns directly with Parliament.

“Part of the amendments included in the BELA Bill is that an HoD may direct a public school to adopt more than one language of instruction, where it is practicable to do so and that, if the HoD issues such a directive, he or she must take all necessary steps to ensure the public school receives the necessary resources that enable it to provide adequate learning and education in the additional language of instruction,” it stated.

In addition, the Constitutional Court judgement on the Schools Admissions Policy stated that the HoD is the person who determines the policy. As such, the amendments regarding language merely clarify the role.

This Bill advocates for, among other progressive amendments, introducing and teaching other languages in schools.

It further promotes fair and meaningful access to schooling.

“Therefore, the insinuation by DA and other organisations stating this Bill is being used to attack Afrikaans and mother-tongue education is senseless. This Bill intends to promote and defend all languages in all schools. They must not bring politics into the education space. Our children must be in the same classroom, learning and playing together,” said Lesufi.

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