Last month the Department of Basic Education released the Basic Education Law Amendment (BELA) Bill. In simplest terms, the BELA Bill wants to give the state complete control over all forms of education. Curriculum choice, language of instruction, and even religion in school will be determined by the state and not by an individual school. (If this sounds familiar, it’s what the apartheid government did.)
The BELA Bill & Public Schools
Public schools will lose the right to decide on their own admissions policies. They will no longer have a say in class sizes. They will no longer be allowed to subscribe to a particular religious ethos and choose curricula accordingly. Every decision will be made by the Department. Even something as small as renting out the school hall for functions will need to be approved by the Department.
Many public school parents are unaware of the implications for their children. It is important to spread awareness and encourage them to submit their comments opposing the bill before the deadline. I’ve been spamming my personal Facebook page with links but I confess to feeling disappointment at how apathetic many of my friends with children in public school seem to be.
The BELA Bill & Homeschooling
One of the reasons parents choose to homeschool is the freedom to use the curriculum that most appeals to them or best suits their family’s needs. Many homeschoolers do not use a CAPS-aligned curriculum. Our family has been moving toward a Charlotte Mason approach these last few months, and from January will be following the Ambleside Online curriculum. This is a literature-based, Christian-centric curriculum. Definitely not CAPS-compliant, and not in line with the non-religious requirement of the BELA Bill.
The BELA Bill requires homeschoolers to register with the Department. This is actually a current requirement, but many parents have gone the route of lawful non-compliance and not registered because of the unreasonable expectation demanded. The BELA Bill proposes the penalty for non-registration be increased from six months to six years. This means more children in an already-overburdened foster care system and parents with permanent records for the criminal act of educating their children. (Never mind the thousands of actual criminals who get to go around hijacking, murdering and raping to their hearts’ content.)
The BELA Bill also requires homeschoolers to be assessed on the national curriculum – at their own cost, of course. This will increase the financial burden on homeschoolers, many of whom use free curricula. Homeschoolers will also have to obtain their matric through a registered service provider, meaning that options such as Cambridge and the GED will not be self-study options. Given that the national standard is so low, most homeschoolers prefer the Cambridge or GED route.
How To Oppose The BELA Bill
The deadline for comments is Friday, 10 November, which has given us less than a month to study the Bill. The Pestalozzi Trust asked the Department for an extension of the comment period, but were declined. It seems the government is trying to steamroll this Bill, but they’ve underestimated the mama and papa bears who are not going to let it pass without a fight.
If you are unsure what to say in your letter, the Pestalozzi Trust has a sample letter and guidelines available.
There are several ways to submit your comments on the BELA Bill.
- Write a letter outlining your objections and send it to Advocate Rudman at Rudman.D@dbe.gov.za (BCC firstname.lastname@example.org so that the Pestalozzi Trust can keep a record of all submissions).
- If you would prefer to remain anonymous, email your comments email@example.com with the subject: BELA Bill Anonymous.
- Complete the BELA Bill Impact survey. The Pestalozzi Trust will collate the results and submit them.
- Additionally, write to your newspaper editor to object to the Bill.
Democratic SA is collating comments from Under 18s.
- If the child is too young to read/understand adult material, explain that the government wants to make a law that all children have to use government education services. Even those who don’t go to public school will have to learn exactly the same things at the same age as children in school, even if you are behind or ahead. They will be forced to do the same tests. They don’t want you to do anything that isn’t exactly the same as in public schools.
- Include the child’s age, up to what grade they attended public school, or if they have never attended public school.
- In the child’s own words, their thoughts on the government saying must learn the same things and do the same tests.
- Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Children attending public school may also submit comments relating to other aspects of the Bill.
Spread the word and encourage your friends to submit as soon as possible. Use #BELABill, #homeschoolfreedom and #stopschoolcapture in your social media posts.
More On The BELA Bill
The Pestalozzi Trust has published a fact sheet which summarizes the Bill.
Democratic Education SA has written two detailed objections to the BELA Bill. The first discusses the right to education, the best interest of the child, and the relationship between the family and the state. The second looks at the contents of the Bill and its problems relating to South Africa’s constitutional commitment to democracy and social justice.
Business Tech has written about eight of the biggest changes for schools.
Times Live writes about the effect on school governing bodies.
LitNet has a post on school capture. (Afrikaans.)
Imago Education has objections to the requirements for grades 10-12.
- Join the BELA Bill Facebook group to stay up-to-date with developments.
- Follow the Pestalozzi Trust on Facebook and Twitter.