File picture: Independent Media
Cape Town - The battle lines are drawn and a fight all the way to the Constitutional Court is expected if the proposed amendment to the Basic Education Act is enacted.

Opposition groups are weighing their options after public submissions on the proposed Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill closed on Friday. They called the government’s attempt at curbing the powers of school governing bodies (SGBs) a threat to quality education.

The draft bill, which was published last month, includes the right for the department to take back the power of decision making at schools from SGBs.

The powers include the SGB not being able to make recommendations on staff appointments such as heads of department, deputy principals and principals, as well as regulate the school’s finances.

Spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education Elijah Mhlanga said that during the process of developing the draft bill, all the provincial education departments were consulted.

The next step was for the submissions to be analysed and considered for possible incorporation into the draft bill.

The Federations of Unions of SA (Fedusa) and its affiliates in the basic education sector, the South African Teachers’ Union (SAOU) and the Public Servants Association (PSA) opposed the bill.

Fedusa general secretary Dennis George said: “The proposed amendments will disempower communities by transferring school governance to state officials and are fertile ground for capturing school finances.

“These amendments will in no way improve the quality of education and are, without doubt, designed to ‘capture’ every school for the sole purpose of advantaging the state."

Trade union Solidarity launched a campaign, #ForSchools, encouraging people to give their input on the proposed amendments. The union’s Connie Mulder said the proposed legislation was a threat to quality education.

“Basic education in South Africa is already in a state of decay. If this bill is approved, Solidarity will be ready to fight it. This bill has the potential to plunge the entire system and the few remaining successful schools into extremely turbulent waters. We cannot allow this to happen,” Mulder said.

He said all power was essentially being given back to the head of the department. “This level of state interference is a particular threat to quality education."

The ACDP’s Cheryllyn Dudley said: “The religious ethos of community schools has traditionally been influenced by parents, who had some say in choosing teachers, language and admission policies, through their governing body representatives.”

Sadtu general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, said they agreed with some parts of the proposed amendments, but disagreed with other parts.

“We believe that public schools should be in hands of the community. We agree with issues of language for instance, where schools determine the language of schools to exclude some learners. The government must ensure that Constitutional Court judgments are implemented.”

He said they differed with the government on the issue of promotional posts where the government wanted to take away the power of SGBs to appoint and promote principals and deputy principals.

He said they were also aware that some organisations opposed the interference from government because they wanted to maintain white privileges.

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Cape Argus