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The BELA Bill: Not all that Pretty

Published 13 June 2022 at 05:20
The BELA Bill: Not all that Pretty
And not all about home schooling, as they’d have you believe…

[Updated: 14 June 2022]

In South Africa, home schooling has only really been ‘a thing’ since 1996 when it was legalised through the South African Schools Act (84 of 1996). At that time, a mere 50 families were home schooling. These days it’s estimated at around 120,000 – though we suspect it’s way more, especially after the past two years of draconian Covid measures in schools where a good many parents removed their children from education institutions to home school them instead.

So, most home-schoolers have been aware of the looming Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill for quite some time. Afterall, the process started in 2013, and has been an ongoing debate for several years. They have known what the government was proposing and there were many glaring reasons to object very strongly to the BELA Bill. For this part of the process, they have been preparing their objection letters, ready to send out when the time came and the call for public participation was announced by the Minister.

However, something that had social media abuzz over the weekend was that it was alleged that the government is attempting to sneak mandatory vaccinations in through the back door, so to speak. Since it is an anonymous post, we are unable to verify, but the post seems to be referring to the change in definition in the bill regarding required documents for school admission.

There seems to be some confusion however, since this is in reference to an older draft version of the Bill which included the fact that one of the ‘required documents for learners is an immunisation certificate issued in the name of the learner’. This has since been removed and is not in the latest version of the BELA Bill.

What we do know, however, is that in February 2021, the Department of Basic Education released its amendments to the Admission Policy for Ordinary Public Schools which forms part of the National Education Policy Act, 1996 (Act 27 of 1996).

The update is 23 years in the making and, though this is only a proposed addition for now, it includes proposed protocols which public schools might follow on matters such as language of instruction, school zones, compulsory school-going age, and admissions.

In terms of the immunisation certificate, the proposed amendment states:

On application for admission, a parent must show proof that the learner has been immunised against the following communicable diseases: polio, measles, tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus and hepatitis B. If a parent is unable to show proof of immunisation, the principal must immediately advise the parent in writing to have the learner immunised as part of the free primary health care programme. If the parent refuses or fails, within seven days from the date of the written communication referred to above, to submit proof of immunisation, the principal must not admit the learner to the school and must refer the matter to the Head of Department for further direction. It is in the best interest of other learners that a learner without proof of immunisation must not be allowed on the school premises during the seven days’ period referred to above.”

A mandatory immunization schedule has never been a legal requirement in South African schools. Recommended, yes, but never forced. It remained the decision of the parents. Should these proposed amendments to the Admission Policy for Ordinary Public Schools be passed to support the National Education Policy Act, we may see more amendments to the BELA Bill, who knows? Surely, they will need to reference each other once passed, if they both mention admissions policies. 

And while the amendments to the Admission Policy for Ordinary Public Schools don’t specifically mention the MRNA Covid jab, what’s to stop the government demanding these jabs as part of the admission policy in future? Frankly, we have seen how the government plays their games. Considering the recent fiasco with the proposed amendments to the Health Act and the fact that the BELA Bill gives the Minister of Education unlimited powers, we are right to be wary.

While there are no legal requirements for parents to ensure children receive the requisite vaccinations prescribed, the understanding is that by registering your child with a public school, you tacitly agree to its admission policies. And, the Bill proposes jail time of up to 12 months for parents who do not comply.

So, how do you escape the system? What is the alternative to public schools – or even private schools, who follow very similar procedures? Home schooling? Well… perhaps we need to consider in more detail what, really, is the driving force behind regulating home education in the BELA Bill.

The preamble to the bill is very vague regarding home education, merely stating “to further regulate home education”. In the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA) undertaken to support the Bill, it simply states, “to resolve the problem of uncertainty”. What uncertainty? What further regulations?

If we look a little closer at, say, the ANC Strategy and Tactics document of 2001 (and subsequent ANC documents state the same, by the way), we see that through the NDR – which really has its origins in the South African Communist Party – they seek to assert their ideas and to win society over to their point of view.

They plan to use various instruments at their disposal, including the media, culture and the arts, education and other socialising institutions such as the family, religion, tradition and so on. Their programme is to transform education by not only access to and quality of education, but also education as a socialisation institution for the transmission of new values.

In this tweet from 2014, Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, clearly highlights this belief that education is a tool to keep the government of the day in power.

Along with this, if one considers the following entry in the minutes of the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) meeting on 19 March 2017, “the implication of scrapping home education should be explored” and an excerpt from the SEIA report of 2018 where it was recommended that significant stringent measures are created that will make it difficult for parents to opt for home education, then it becomes increasingly evident that the government sees home education not as an alternative schooling option and welcome solution to the overcrowded, under-resourced government schools, but instead as a hindrance that needs to be resolved.

Another point in the minutes of the CEM meeting was notably “discouraging home education should be created by making parents pay for the expenses”, which further tells us the government aims to convert home education into a means of transferring their own values to the next generation and getting the home school parents to bear the cost. Home education essentially becomes unaffordable state education at home with a prescribed curriculum requiring regular government assessment.

To put it another way: it starts to become far clearer that the government sees education as one system with one curriculum, with the sole purpose of supporting government.

In October 2012, in answer to a parliamentary question by ACDP MP Cheryllyn Dudley, Minister Motshekga said the purpose of the planned changes to the law was to provide for home education as part of the formal schooling system. While that may have sounded reasonable, in fact the changes that are now set to be introduced have the potential to outlaw home education in its current form.

So in future, should any parent want to take their child out of school at any point and for any reason – be it because they feel their child would be better off being educated at home, or they feel their four-year-old is not emotionally ready to go to Grade R yet, they don’t want the child to be vaccinated or, perhaps, they don’t agree with the proposed CSE (Comprehensive Sex Education) programme that is, believe it or not, already being piloted in certain schools by the Western Cape Education Department – they can’t.

No more home education. No escaping the institutionalised system. And no original thinkers or future citizens who challenge the status quo, for that matter.

Home schooling or not; vaccinating or not – these are not decisions for the state to make. When a government believes it has more authority over children than their parents do, we start sliding down a slippery slope. So what exactly is the government playing at? Would immunisation certificates ultimately be a requirement for home-schoolers, too?

The BELA Bill is entirely unreasonable to home educators. Apart from the fact that efforts to help shape a child-centred, sustainable, verifiable approach to home education have been entirely ignored by the government up until now, the real concern is that it is the right of every single parent to be able to decide what is the most suitable and ideal educational route for their child. Yet, the government seems unwilling or unprepared to accept this, and thinks they have a monopoly on how our children are educated… and vaccinated.

And, the teachers’ unions seem to support the Bill. The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), which is the country’s largest trade union in the public service sector, have certainly come out in support of it. Considering SADTU is affiliated to the Education International (EI), this is no surprise.

Education International falls under the auspices of the United Nations. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has corralled nearly the whole world’s teachers (those that are unionised) to be herded towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) through EI. SADTU is affiliated to EI, and so are our other teachers’ unions: South African Teachers’ Union (SAOU) and National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA). Through EI, the WEF is stirring up educators and school staff world-wide to “re-imagine” learning through corporate ed-tech innovations geared for 4IR:

By consolidating ostensibly all of the planet’s teachers and education professionals under the EI, they are galvanizing all school workers into a uniform one-world workforce that marches in lockstep with the corporate-technocratic directives of globalist oligarchs at the WEF, the UN, the OECD, the IMF, and the World Bank.”

And then, if we bear in mind that the UN wants governments to consolidate ‘all’ education into a ‘single system’, and suggests that more regulation needs to be placed on those opting to home-school their children, the picture becomes clearer still. 

From where we’re standing, this all looks like a tightening of the noose. This is everyone’s fight, not simply for those who we consider are obstinate enough or brave enough or rich enough to be able to home-school their children. We all should have that right and that option open to us at any time.

Government is not your friend. Government does not care.

Read the BELA Bill

If you want to comment on the Bill, you have until Wednesday, 15 June 2022 at 16h00 to have your say:

Have your say on DearSA

(cover image courtesy Lukhanyo Primary School under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license)

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