FEDSAS concerned over early indications of intimidation and manipulation of public consultations on BELAB

01/03/2023 - Fedsas

There are reasons for concern over the government’s handling of the public consultations on the BELA Bill. The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education listened to presentations on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill last year. The next step is public consultations, which will allow the public to make contributions.

“It now appears as if at least one education district in the Eastern Free State has already started to manipulate the process by giving instructions to schools that go against democratic processes,” says Dr. Jaco Deacon, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of South African Schools (FEDSAS). Deacon says the Thabo Mofutsanyana District Director has informed schools that only the principal and chairperson of the school governing body may attend the public session in Phuthaditjhaba. “The parliamentary process is part of our democratic system of public participation without restriction. No official, education district, provincial education department, or any other institution has the authority to determine who may or may not attend.”

Another point in the District Director’s letter that raises questions about the intentions of the officials is an instruction that principals and SGB chairpersons must arrive at 09:00. However, according to parliamentary communication, the sessions only start at 14:30. “FEDSAS requests that the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee takes notice of this incident and that the State urgently disciplines the District Director. If FEDSAS does not see urgent action against the official, we will assume that the Free State Education Department supports this action to bypass the parliamentary process.” 

Deacon says this process is only getting underway now and only Limpopo has held public consultations. The Free State sessions will take place this week from Friday to Sunday (3-5 March 2023).

“There are still many sessions country-wide, and more opportunities for similar interference. FEDSAS is therefore calling on members of school governing bodies, parents, and school communities to let their voices be heard by attending the sessions. FEDSAS will also be present at all the consultation sessions.” FEDSAS made a comprehensive presentation to Parliament last year. “This process started in 2017 already and it is understandable that the public might be suffering from BELAB fatigue. However, the next couple of weeks are crucial and citizens of the country can now participate directly in the democratic process.”

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