Freedom of education in the best interests of children is more important than ever.
In the home education community, the contentious problem of the BELA Bill is not a new one. New homeschooling families who have entered the playing field due to the pandemic over the past two years have come to see that home education legislation is not supportive and if the BELA Bill is passed as law in its current form, thousands of home educating families’ choices will be severely impacted. This article unpacks the current situation and how you can help make a positive impact.
What is the BELA Bill?
The Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill is legislation impacting on education and it was introduced in Parliament on 10 January 2022. The Bill amends the South African Schools Act and Employment of Educators Act in ways that unfortunately have a negative impact on education as a whole and home education.
The top 5 problems with the BELA Bill
The BELA Bill is problematic in a vast variety of ways but for brevity and urgency’s sake, this article will cover the five most pressing issues to demonstrate why conversation about this is crucial to the future development of education and related legislation.
- There are many procedural flaws –The Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA) does not meaningfully and comprehensively describe the impact of the Bill on the home education sector. This means that the public is required to comment on a bill with incomplete information. Would you like to have someone make rules that impact your family and your children’s future without your having any say in it?
- There is a lack of sufficient research on the impact of this bill — a socio-economic study should be done, along with reviewing studies on how children learn best, how to address skills requirements for the current working world in education today, etc. Lack of research implies a major gap in the bill’s proposed outcome and its implementation will be a setup for disaster.
- The BELA Bill is unconstitutional because it interferes with parents’ rights to choose curriculum, support, and education structures that are in the best interests of their children. It crosses the Children’s Act, setting the state above the parent. As it stands, it will restrict families to the national curriculum only, making it difficult to adapt home education to the needs of individual children, especially children with special needs.
- It is not relevant to the future of education and the Schools Act is not suitable for regulating home education which is, by definition, completely different in structure. There are major chasms between the current national education system and the fast-paced skills and newly developing careers in the working world. The BELA Bill will only make it harder to bridge these chasms innovatively, further throttling the country’s economic development.
- The cost of its requirements in terms of registration for and assessment of home education is not considered in the current context. As it stands, an estimated average total cost for assessments required by BELA Bill for an average family with 3 children will come to approximately R23100 per year or R1925 per month, which comes to more than 12% of the average household’s monthly income. Outrageous! Moreover, the big picture costs of setting up sufficient infrastructure to implement it will cost parents about R3.8 BILLION per year. It is simply not feasible for both state and families.
What you can do about the BELA Bill
- Tell your story to parliament - submissions to parliament on the BELA Bill are now open! This is a RED ALERT because if the BELA Bill is passed as it stands it will result in a major intrusion into your ability to home school according to the best interests of your child.
- Speaking up now will determine what home education will look like for your children and grandchildren. Home educators, small schools, and any other concerned party should make every effort to be heard and submit their comments. Click here to submit your story on the Pestalozzi Trust platform. This platform will securely store your submission and track the delivery of the submission. Letters should reach the PCBE on or before 15 June 2022 at 16:00.
- Share the call to action above with friends and family on social media to spread the word!
If you are currently a homeschooling parent, join the Pestalozzi Trust, South Africa’s legal defense organization for homeschoolers.
- Join the Liberty in Learning Coalition and participate in groups that actively discuss legislative solutions with the DBE.
- Be clear on why you are homeschooling and gather as much evidence as possible to support your decision in the best interest of your child — be prepared.
You have the right (and plenty of reason) to impact the educational future of the nation for good!
Dear parent, as the one who knows your child best and who is ultimately responsible for the education of your child, YOUR voice matters. Whatever your experience with schools and education has been thus far, you have an opportunity to fight for what’s best for your child and the millions of other youths who deserve access to multiple excellent educational options, curricula, approaches, providers, and support.
Education is no longer in the hands of schools and teachers alone. It is in YOUR hands. It may feel terrifying, frustrating, and deeply challenging, but it’s also incredibly exciting. There is hope for a better education. Conversations around creating legislation that will support innovative educational solutions for
- children in rural areas (who typically have more limited access to resources),
- children in poverty,
- children with special needs,
must be had and be heard. You don’t need to be an expert in law or be a qualified teacher to have a say that can make a difference.
The South African government has a duty toward our children, and it is our collective duty to ensure that it is fulfilled in a way that is relevant to the future-facing changes in education, socio-economic challenges, and to the needs of children.
Don’t forget to CLICK HERE to have your say on the BELA Bill today!