Education officials trying to undermine democratic process, says FEDSAS following another effort to limit access to public consultations

07/03/2023 - Fedsas

Are government officials unaware of the functioning of democratic processes or are there deliberate efforts to limit access to public consultations on the BELA Bill?

In less than a week, directors in education districts in two provinces issued instructions that only principals and chairpersons of school governing bodies may attend public consultations.

 “Last week the Free State Education Department said the Thabo Mofutsanyana District Director made an ‘honest’ mistake. But now a similar letter was sent out by the District Director in the Dr. Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District in North-West,” says Dr. Jaco Deacon, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS).

Deacon says FEDSAS now demands that the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education issues clear instructions to provinces on how to handle public consultations. “The committee has a responsibility to explain to officials how the democratic process should take place. Otherwise, it will be to the detriment of the committee’s work a cast doubt over the entire process.”

Even before the public consultations started, FEDSAS voiced its concern over the Portfolio Committee’s slow pace in creating awareness around the consultations. “Then came the incident last week where a Free State education official apparently decided to take it upon themselves to determine who may and may not attend consultations. The Free State Education Department may have chalked this up as a mistake, but how did the exact same thing happen in another province in less than a week? Did other provinces not take notice of the incident? Why didn’t the National Department of Basic Education or the Portfolio Committee act immediately to ensure that consultations take place within the constitutional framework?”

FEDSAS has already made an extensive presentation of the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill to the Portfolio Committee. Staff and members of the organization also attend all the public consultations. “This process is simply too important to be hijacked by power-hungry and incompetent officials.”

Public consultations already took place in Limpopo and the Free State. The sessions in North-West are scheduled for 10-12 March. “Parents, governing body members, and everyone involved in a school community is requested to attend a session. If they are shown the door, they must make it very clear that democracy is based on public participation without limitation.”

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