Today was a victory for the thousands of South Africans who believe that their voice matters, and who took the effort to make written submissions on the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA Bill).
It is no secret that thousands of ordinary South Africans, home schooling parents, and civil society organisations, took part in the public participation process of the BELA Bill. The amendment to the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 (SASA), and the Educators Employment Act 76 of 1998, remains highly contentious and brings to reality the real issues faced in the education sector on the ground.
ACDP MP Marie Sukers says there was always going to be a tug of war between political parties on the issues of the Bill, but that the real contention at this stage of the fight is to uphold the principles of participatory democracy and what meaningful engagement with public submissions really means, regardless of political position.
Sukers said that, “The lawmaking process must meaningfully engage with those people whose preferred way of educating their children is most affected by it.
“The ACDP believes that adherence to the principles and constitutional obligations of a democratic Parliament won at the end of the day. The time has come for functional politics and a renewed focus to restore the public trust in processes that upholds our democracy.”
It is to that end that the ACDP fights for the principles that underpin that hard won democracy. Nothing emphasises those principles more than to make every voice count and be listened to when laws are made. The omission of 9 500 written submissions undermines the principles of fairness and due process.
Marie Sukers, and other opposition parties represented in the Committee, appealed at the start of deliberations on the Bill for the omission of the 9 500 written submissions to be addressed. They called for a wide matrix of all submissions for proper consideration during the clause-by-clause deliberations by the Portfolio Committee.
The decision today for an accurate account of the 9 500 submissions is a win for democracy.
The ACDP will engage in writing with the Chairperson of the Committee on the issues we had previously raised that pertains to the engagement with contentious clauses, such as clause 37, that deals with home schooling.
Sukers said that, “Public halls were filled with home schooling learners who participated at the public hearings and made their voices heard. This community has championed their own cause and made known that “nothing about them, without them”.
“It is our duty to ensure that as lawmakers we give due regard to their voices, and that of every other South African who made oral and written submissions on the Bill.”
“We appreciate the step by the Chairperson to halt proceedings and allow for an account of the omitted written submissions. In today’s meeting the ACDP stressed the importance of meaningful engagement as part of the public participation process, and specifically focused on the submissions of home schoolers who made a proposal to the Department of Basic Education to consult with them on a redraft of clause 37”, Sukers added.
The Committee resumes with deliberations next week.