Solidarity fights to stop ANC “capture” of schools

Solidarity is gearing up the fight the African National Congress (ANC) government in court to stop it from “capturing” South Africa’s schools – and stripping parents of a say in the education of their children. BizNews speaks to Solidarity’s Johnell van Vollenhoven after a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee – in which the ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters  (EFF) “used their numbers to obtain a majority” – accepted the BELA Amendment Bill this week. The Amendment Bill was therefore accepted for submission to the National Assembly (NA). This is the next step in the process of making it into law. Van Vollenhoven says such as law would mean “that we as parents and our governing bodies that we choose to govern our schools will be stripped of their powers”. The Bill was accepted despite widespread objection from the public with nearly 9 000 of the 11 000 inputs against the amendment of existing laws. “…they are not interested in looking at what the people are saying, they are only interested in pushing through their own ideology in this regard,” Van Vollenhoven charges. – Chris Steyn

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Introductions
  • 00:24 – On the BELA Amendment Bill
  • 01:18 – On the level of public support for the bill
  • 02:14 – On public feedback to the parliamentary committee
  • 03:16 – Why the bill was accepted despite a lack of public support
  • 04:07 – On opposition parties’ responses to the bill
  • 05:04 – What next for the BELA Amendment Bill
  • 06:18 – On the implications of the bill on SA schools
  • 07:34 – What Solidarity plans to do to oppose the bill
  • 08:42 – On the current state of education in South Africa
  • 10:28 – Concludes

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Highlights from the interview

Solidarity is gearing up the fight the African National Congress (ANC) government in court to stop it from “capturing” South Africa’s schools – and stripping parents of a say in the education of their children.

BizNews speaks to Solidarity Spokesperson Johnell van Vollenhoven after a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee – in which the ANC and the Economic Freedom Fighters  (EFF) “used their numbers to obtain a majority” – accepted the BELA Amendment Bill this week. 

The Amendment Bill was thus accepted for submission to the National Assembly (NA). This is the next step in the process of making it into law.

Van Vollenhoven says the clauses that are most concerning are the language policy in schools and the admission policies. “With this, BELA is taking away the rights of parents and SGBs to determine these policies within their schools and handing these rights over to the government where HODs and really political persons that are in these positions can start deciding on the language policies of school and really veto the parents of the children in those schools.”

The Bill was accepted despite widespread objection from the public. “…if we look at the spreadsheet that was published by the parliamentary committee, there were almost 9,000 submissions that were against and rejected this bill in totality, and only about 150 submissions that were for this bill. So we have an enormous amount of public participation and the public really saying, we don’t want this bill.”

However, the ANC and EFF “were pushing it through because they blatantly said they believe in centralisation. They believe that there must be one central point from where all schools and all education must come and that should be with the government. And they are not interested in looking at what the people are saying, they are only interested in pushing through their own ideology in this regard.”

Warning of the implications should the bill become law, Van Vollenhoven says: “…it means that we as parents and our governing bodies that we choose to govern our schools will be stripped of their powers. It means that the government can come in at any school and decide the language policy, the admission policy and really take control of it. And we as parents will have no more say in the education of our children.”

To try and stop that from happening, Solidarity is now poised for court action. “…should the Bill pass, we can go to court, we can test the constitutionality of this Bill and if it really is in the best interest of our children and if it is a Bill that can stand. And we believe that it is not. We do not believe it is constitutional, we do believe it infringes on quite a number of rights and we will be going to court to test that.”

As for the current state of education under the ANC government, Van Vollenhoven says:  “…the ANC is just not building schools. They are not putting quality educators in schools. We have schools that are literally falling apart, especially in rural areas…we do not have proper education for our children in schools. And once they leave schools, they are not able to qualify further or to get a job because they lack certain basic skills.”

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