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Bela bill does not seek to undermine SGB powers: Bulwane

By Libuseng Nyaka

INTABAZWE – Fears that the Bela (Amendment) Bill will take away powers of school governing bodies (SGB) have been quelled after some community members especially those affiliated to opposition party, raised concerns during public inputs on Tuesday.

During a public participation meeting on the Bela Bill held at Intabzwe multi-purpose hall, a teacher and member of Democratic Alliance Sifiso Sithebe said the bill undermines school governing SGB’s.

“SGB is made up of teachers and parents who are the key holders in our community. That Bill has its efforts misplaced because it does not speak about the real issues in education, such as overcrowding in classrooms. The fact that Grade R is now compulsory, is there even a budget and facilities for that? So we reject this bill.”

But Free State Chairperson of education portfolio committee William Bulwane has rebutted claims that new Bela Bill will take away powers of SGB’s.

“Our purpose for coming here is to talk to the community about the parliament has proposed in line with the constitution because certain clauses of South African Schools Act were not meeting criteria of the constitution. There were a number of cases won by NGOs that took department of court.

“But what the bill seeks to address now is to say when policies are made by an SGB they must be taken to the HOD and MEC to see if those are not contravening the constitution of Republic of South the supreme law of the land. That is where a grey area is, where many people think the department wants to take their powers.

“This is meant to help them understand that we are constitutionally bound, for example the bill repeals a clause that said and SGB may decide on a language of a particular school. If the SGB decides on an Afrikaans only school, it is their power but in terms of the Constitution it is wrong. Because every learner must have a school wherever he/she is. If SGB took such resolution, and Hod and MEC will say ‘no this contravenes the constitution, change it to meet the criteria’.”

Despite the concerns raised when coming to voting for the bill only one person voted against the bill while entire hall voted for the bill to be amended.
Reacting to this Bulwane said.
“The public supported the bill because it addresses all the fundamental issues. For example, with that pregnancy clause that allows a pregnant learner to come to school. It allows the school also to arrange the policy to deal with the issue of drugs at school. It also addresses SGB functions and powers, including how to run the finances and disclosure of the SGB. It helps everybody to understand his role so that you do not become a referee and a player at the same. You end up dealing with the tenders and awarding them to yourself.”

FS Legislature chairperson on education portfolio committee William Bulwane.

Weighing in, Soviet Lekganyane from national government said bill is overwhelmingly supported because it deals with the principle of social justice.

“The principle of equity, access and redress. A majority of the public believes this bill will help uplift the general conditions in our communities. There are operational issues like issues of infrastructure and overcrowding in classrooms.’
National Basic Education ‘s Zukile Ntshwanti who presented the bill to the community of Maluti-a-Phofung ‘s reminded the public at Intabazwe that the process was triggered by a court order.

“The process does not come from the sky, but it is a response to an outcry by community. This Bill is desired to amend two pieces of legislation ,one South African School Act and the other one is the Employment of educator’s act.”