Bill Amendments Raises Concerns Over School Admissions

Every year, public schools in provinces like the Western Cape and Gauteng experience an unmeasurable influx of late arrivals from learners in neighboring provinces and countries seeking placement and admission into schools. The Basic Education Law Amendment Bill (BELA) has proposed some amendments to tackle this concern.

There are a number of proposals in the bill that were openly welcomed by stakeholders and the public because these amendments have the potential to improve the quality of education for learners.

Although the increase in regulations and oversight is a step in the right direction, there are quite a few amendments that are being questioned and opposed, for example, the bill has made some proposals related to the powers of school governing bodies (SGBs) and head of departments (HODs) on admissions and language policies.

The Bill is proposing to enhance the authority of HODs to amend or approve admissions and language policies that will evidently give them the power to place children into schools with little consultation with said schools.

The influx intake of learners in the Western Cape and Gauteng is something schools have experienced countless times in the past, with approximately 17 000 children migrating from the Eastern Cape to the Western Cape each year and more than 26 000 children moving from Limpopo or other provinces to Gauteng.

Jonathan Molver from the Education Partnership Group says:

We are not thinking innovatively and creatively enough with regards to education delivery and particularly with the issue of school placements

Molver added that this is a problematic solution because schools are already battling with overcrowded classrooms and increasing the learner-to-teacher ratio will evidently not be beneficial to the learner processes conducted at said schools.

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“We should be considering different alternatives to make provision for these learners, we need to be thinking about blended or remote learning considering that Covid has already accelerated our ability to deliver content online,” he says.

Thinking about alternatives like blended or remote learning does raise the issue that most of these learners do not have access to adequate resources that can facilitate this kind of learning but there is a lot that government can do to ensure that they have access to these resources.

“People say that you can’t replace a teacher with a laptop, and I agree with this but at the moment we have upwards of 50 000 children a year sitting and waiting for placements, and granting the education department the right to place them isn’t going to solve the problem of overcrowded classrooms.”

The BELA Bill is open for written submissions until 15 August 2023, the general public and stakeholders are encouraged to get their submissions in before the deadline closes.

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