EE recommendations make big impact on Amendment Bill

Home | EE recommendations make big impact on Amendment Bill

In February 2010 EE made a written submission on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill in response to a call for public comments on the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to bring statutes dealing with schools (namely the South African Schools Act, the National Education Policy Act and the Employment of Educator's Act) in line with the changes brought about by the splitting of the Department of Education into the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Higher Education and Training respectively.

Equal Education made eight specific comments and recommendations on the Bill. Since then the Bill has undergone amendments following the process of public comment and has been tabled in Parliament for further consideration.

The amended Bill, now titled "Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill 2010" incorporated seven out of EE’s eight recommendations.  Some of these amendments dealt with very important issues such as the prohibition of "display of material of a political nature within the premises of the school." Regarding this specific provision, EE argued that the wording of the section was too broad and draconian. Phrased as such, the provision could prohibit the use and display of historically relevant and pertinent material, which may even be required in the school curriculum. EE argued that this section be amended so as to prohibit the display of party political material, unless it is for the purposes of the school curriculum. 

The one recommendation made by EE, which was not incorporated into the amended version of the Bill, is an important one. The Bill seeks to amend section 5A of the South African Schools Act, so as to give the Minister of Finance more say in the development of Norms and Standards for School Infrastructure. EE supports such an amendment, but is of the view that the section needs to be further amended so as to include a specific obligation on the Minister of Basic Education to adopt minimum norms and standards. At present, the section only gives authority to the Minister to adopt these regulations, but does not provide that the Minister must adopt minimum norms and standards. EE has made a further submission to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, which is currently considering the Bill, to recommend that s5A of the South African Schools Act says that the Minister must adopt minimum norms and standards for school infrastructure within a reasonable period.