Government pushes through new school rules

 ·14 May 2024

The National Council of Provinces (NCOP) has approved and passed the amended Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill, with eight of the nine provinces voting in favour of the changes.

The NCOP considered the bill on Tuesday (14 May) after deferring the bill last week on a technicality.

The passed bill, the amended D-bill, was adopted by all provinces except the Western Cape.

Several key issues were raised in the processing of the bill by the provinces—particularly around language and admission policies—which led to further amendments to the laws by the Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sport, Arts and Culture.

This resulted in the D-bill, which has now been passed by the NCOP.

Some of the major changes coming to schools in the D-Bill include:

  • Allowing schools to determine and develop their own language and admission policies, but giving the Department of Basic Education the final say;
  • Regulating various aspects of school governing bodies;
  • Making Grade R the new compulsory school-starting age;
  • Criminalising parents who do not ensure their children are in school;
  • Regulating home education;
  • Confirming the ban on corporal punishment.

Some of the biggest points of contention in the coming laws are the language and admission policies, which saw major opposition from school groups and opposition parties.

According to the DA, which has pushed back against the bill in all committee meetings, minor amendments were made to the bill in an attempt to address this.

This change was to allow schools and school governing bodies to determine their own admission and language policies – but these still have to be submitted to the provincial heads of department (HODs) for approval.

Wording in the bill also lays out that HODs will have to make any changes in consultation with the schools and communities affected. However, they have the final authority to disapprove and change these policies.

Other opponents to the bill, such as Union Solidarity, have already indicated possible legal action should the bill be signed into law.

Where to next?

In terms of South Africa’s legislative processes, the bill will now head back to the National Assembly for further processing, with a debate scheduled for Thursday, 16 May, according tot he DA.

The D-Bill will be reviewed by the NA’s Committee on Basic Education and then head to the NA House for a vote.

Should the National Assembly ratify the amended version, the Bill will then be sent to the president for assent.

Read: New laws for schools in South Africa get the green light – despite objections

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