Further opportunity for public to comment on controversial schools bill: Motshekga

15 November 2017 - 14:23 By Ernest Mabuza
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga
Image: Sunday Times

There will be further opportunities for the public to comment on proposed amendments to the South African Schools Act‚ the Department of Basic Education says.

Friday was the deadline for the public to make submissions to the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill‚ which was published by the department on October 13.

Thousands of submissions were received from concerned citizens‚ while others requested that they be given more time to make submissions.

The proposed amendments‚ if enacted‚ would quash nearly all powers of school governing bodies such as the enactment of a language policy‚ teacher appointments and learner admissions.

Department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said it would diligently consider all the comments received‚ and that recommendations would then be made to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga about amending the draft Bill if that was required.

“Owing to the unexpectedly large number of submissions that were received‚ the department was unfortunately not able to acknowledge receipt of each submission.”

Mhlanga said there were also a substantial number of requests for an extension of the deadline to which the department was unable to respond.

“To those who did not receive a response to their requests for an extension‚ and to any other individuals and organisations who were unable to submit their comments by the deadline date‚ we can give assurances that there will be an additional opportunity as is in line with normal policy development processes.”

Mhlanga said once the draft Bill had been introduced in Parliament‚ it will then be referred to the Portfolio Committee on Education.

In the course of the committee’s consideration of the draft Bill‚ the committee would‚ in line with the normal practice‚ once again call for comments on the Bill.

“Moreover‚ the Portfolio Committee may hold public hearings in keeping with the normal practice.

“All individuals and organisations who have missed the deadline for this round of comments will therefore have a further opportunity to provide inputs on the draft Bill once it has been introduced into Parliament.”

Following the submissions‚ Gauteng MEC Panyaza Lesufi lashed out at those who opposed the proposed amendments.

Lesufi accused them of hankering after the past and keeping education benefits for themselves. He referred to those who opposed the Bill as “haters”.

However‚ Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools deputy CEO Jaco Deacon took exception in an open letter addressed to Lesufi on Tuesday.

He said Lesufi’s reference to citizens commenting on the Bill as “haters” should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. It is irresponsible‚ divisive and patronising.

“The public education system can be saved through strong leadership‚ but leadership that embraces public schools‚ the right of parents to have a say in the education of their children‚ the importance of equipping governing bodies and departments that function properly and that serve schools.”

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