BELA Bill controversy: Debunking misinformation and addressing concerns

We take a look at the misconceptions or misinformation that has been doing the rounds on social media. File picture: Pexels

We take a look at the misconceptions or misinformation that has been doing the rounds on social media. File picture: Pexels

Published Feb 28, 2024


Parents and concerned citizens have raised concerns and voiced their opinions on the controversial Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill as it returns to the spotlight with discussion sessions.

Discussion sessions on the matter have been scheduled across the Western Cape.

With the BELA Bill a subject of controversy and misinformation, we take a look at the misconceptions and misinformation that has been doing the rounds on social media.


Committee Chairperson Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba dismissed claims that the Bill facilitates abortions for learners without guardian consent. She emphasised the focus on comprehensive sexuality education within the curriculum.

Language policy

Highlighted amendments in the Bill include language policy and admissions procedures.

School governing bodies are mandated to submit language policies for approval, considering the broader community's language needs.

What is noteworthy is that the final authority for learner admissions in public schools rests with heads of departments, following consultation with school governing bodies.

Homeschool education

Addressing concerns about home education, the committee agreed to amendments requiring registration and competency assessments while offering flexibility in site visits.

Mbinqo-Gigaba stressed the importance of accurate information, underscoring the Bill's aim to align with educational developments and constitutional mandates.

Other amendments

Proposals adopted by the committee encompass compulsory schooling age adjustments, penalties for truancy, and the prohibition of corporal punishment in schools.

Mbinqo-Gigaba affirmed the extensive deliberation and public engagement throughout the legislative process, underscoring Parliament's commitment to addressing societal needs.

What is the status of the Bill?

The Bela Bill is currently at the National Council of Provinces. The standing committee on education held a virtual meeting to discuss the bill earlier this month.

Each province has to say whether they approve the bill or not. It is also worth noting that all nine provinces need to reach consensus. It can be a consensus on whether it needs to be referred back to the department, or whether the bill can go through to the president to undersign and be implemented.

What are the amendments?

The BELA Bill proposes significant amendments to the South African Schools Act (SASA) of 1996 and the Educators Employment Act of 1998.

– Grade R Compulsory: The bill suggests making Grade R mandatory as the starting point for schooling, expanding it to 7,888 schools.

– Criminalising Parental Negligence: Parents failing to ensure their children attend school may face criminal charges, including potential jail time. Disrupting school activities could also lead to imprisonment.

– Regulation of Home Education: The bill allows for regulation of home education, including site visits before registration, acknowledging parents' preference for homeschooling.

– Language Policy: School governing bodies must submit language policies considering community linguistic needs for approval.

– Accommodating Religion: School codes of conduct should respect cultural and religious beliefs, allowing students to seek exemptions from certain requirements.

– Ban on Corporal Punishment: The bill reaffirms the prohibition of corporal punishment in schools, proposing fines or imprisonment for violators.

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