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From sex education to alcohol sales and minority languages, Bela Bill gets roasted

From sex education to alcohol sales and minority languages, Bela Bill gets roasted
Chairperson of the Gauteng Portfolio Committee on Education Tshilidzi Munyai. (Photo: People’s Assembly)

Chairperson of the Gauteng Portfolio Committee on Education Tshilidzi Munyai had his hands full calming down people who were angry about some of the more controversial clauses in the Bela Bill.

Emotions ran high when community members submitted their views on the Basic Education Laws Amendment (Bela) Bill during a public hearing in Randfontein on Monday.

A member of the EFF told those gathered at the Randfontein Local Municipality Hall that black people who do not support Bela are “sell-outs”, while a pastor remarked that it was “nonsensical” to expect poor communities to register their children for Grade R classes online.

EFF and ANC members were in support of the Bill at the event, the second leg of public hearings on the Bill in Gauteng. The first leg was held at Uncle Tom’s Community Centre in Orlando on Friday.

Gauteng MPL Tshilidzi Munyai, who chairs the provincial portfolio committee on education, is expected to hold a third session at Sam Hlalele Community Centre Main Hall in Tembisa on Wednesday, 28 February.

This will be followed by another session at the Falala Community Hall in Soshanguve on Friday, 1 March.

Bela Bill hearings are scheduled to be finalised at the end of March, with the National Council of Province’s Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sports, Arts and Culture adopting the report.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Drama in Parliament as DA and ACDP MPs walk out of Bela Act draft report deliberations

This comes after a similar process was conducted by the Basic Education Portfolio Committee, which adopted the Bela Bill report despite threats by the DA to challenge the process.

There was a long queue of people who wanted to make their voices heard when Daily Maverick arrived at the packed Randfontein hall at around midday on Monday. Documents summarising Bela Bill clauses were circulated to the crowd.

Concerned parent Tshepo Mtshiwana was unhappy that the document was thin on detail, comprising only 21 pages. He said Munyai’s committee had failed to provide detailed documents that would enable communities to make effective contributions.

“This whole process is a farce. It is not properly conducted. Other clauses are ambiguous,” Mtshiwana said. He said the Bill did not address pertinent issues facing communities such as the sale of alcohol near schools.  

“I’m rejecting this Bill. There is nothing here that addresses that.”

Chris Tshebe, who introduced himself as a leader and pastor, said he rejected the bill “in its entirety”. He said a clause referring to sex education was a proposal from “people from hell”.

He said parents were being punished by the government. “It looks like the leaders we elect are taking the law into their own hands. You want to be our parents. You make laws that suit you. We elect you to represent us,” Tshebe said.

Munyai interjected, saying that it was the people who made laws.

‘Trampling on my rights’

Diledile Motsepe, who introduced herself as a homeschooling mother, said she “rejected the bill in its entirety”, especially the clause that requires parents to apply to the Department of Education to homeschool children.

“If the MEC or head of department sees it fit, they will approve my application to teach my kid at home in a place that is safe, safer than the schools we have in our communities,” Motsepe said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Drugs, gangs and pangas — the Soweto high school beset by violence and lawlessness

Motsepe said she removed her child from normal schooling because she could not find a school that taught Sesotho.  

“My child is supposed to learn every other thing in English and here we are asking the Afrikaners to not teach their children [in their language] but to take our kids to their schools. Yet, our kids are supposed to have a heritage within their own languages. What has happened to us as people? Have we become so modernised that we do not even have a heritage any more to uphold?”

She said children had the right to be taught in their home languages.

“The homeschooling law in this country gives me as a parent the power, not you the MEC or HoD [head of department]. It is my right and it is not a privilege. I reject this Bill because the state is trying to infringe and trample upon my right by coming up with all these summaries of these things that I don’t understand because I’m not English and I’m not that educated. They [are trying to] confuse me and I refuse it,” she said to applause.


The EFF’s Tubi Melusi said the party supported the Bela Bill, especially the clause making schooling compulsory from Grade R to Grade 12.  

“There are parents who … will deliberately deny their children education. This Bill is criminalising those parents. Those parents must be taken to task,” Melusi said.

He said some schools were managed by power-hungry school governing bodies (SGBs).

“We say we’re a rainbow nation but when you go to these schools they practise discrimination and racism at a higher level. This Bill must be protected,” he said.

Every learner, he said, who wished to study at a particular school in his or her home language should be allowed to do so and SGBs should not dictate which language should be used to study maths.

“That is why these minorities have an advantage over all of us here because they learn maths in their own languages. We are not going to allow that. 

“As black people, if you’re not in support of this Bill you’re a sell-out. You must make sure that you support this Bill. As EFF, we support this Bill,” he said.

Influx of learners

Evert du Plessis, a parent and DA member, objected to the Bill because of serious concerns as to whether schools would be able to cope with the influx of learners if Grade R were made mandatory.

Du Plessis said the scarcity of resources and financial implications should be addressed before the Bill was approved.

Putting the final decision of the school’s admission policy into the hands of HoDs was another concern. “The power to determine the admission policy should reside with the SGB,” Du Plessis said.

In addition, he felt, “There’s a greater need for consultation with the homeschool sector to determine their views and concerns.”

Louis Nel, a parent and an attorney, said the criminalisation of parents of learners not in school was unjust.

“We need to assist parents, we need to assist the community, the voiceless … the indigent, the impoverished who don’t have the knowledge and power and the electronic or social media platform we use. We need to assist the voiceless,” Nel said.

Rikus de Beer, who has 40 years of experience educating children, said he was concerned about the implications of the language policy on minority groups.

“Please consider minority groups. Afrikaans … is becoming a minority language in South Africa. I don’t have a problem with schools adapting to the geographical influx of people in a specific area. It is natural. It must happen. But, what about minority groups?”

Munyai replied that everyone’s rights were enshrined in the Constitution. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    “the scarcity of resources and financial implications should be addressed before the Bill was approved.”

    This statement literally sums up the ANC.

    The road to Hell is paved with poorly thought through, inadequately understood, impractical, unfundable, pie in the sky intentions.

    And South Africa is being dragged down this road by the ANC. Helped along by our racist destructive EFF friends.

    My brothers if we allow these parties to continue doing this at the end of this road we will have nothing. Nothing but the Hell we have created to live in. But we have the power to change it.

    Vote for change!

  • Martin Horn says:

    I agree that there should be some level of regulation to ensure that kids get some form of school. However, forcing every child into the same mould has proven over and over to be unsuccessful in determining the child’s future success. Each child has a different personality and study method so the parents who actually know them should have the right to decide what is best for their child.

    Government should rather focus on getting street kids off the streets and into schools and leave responsible parents to educate their children at home if they choose to. These parents will actually help the struggling public school system by alleviating the overcrowding and leaving more resources available for the less privileged children. It is an obvious win/win for both sets of children and for society.

    Government can still set national qualification standards in line with international best practice, as the vast majority of home schooled kids perform just as well or better academically and in society as a whole. Don’t take power away from the parents to raise good citizens for our country.

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