Zille tells supporters new education bill will discriminate against Afrikaans-speaking schools

Helen Zille address the media during a protest outside the basic education dept's offices on Tuesday.

Helen Zille address the media during a protest outside the basic education dept’s offices on Tuesday. Gallo Images/OJ Koloti

  • The national Department of Basic Education has proposed changes to the Basic Education Law Amendment Bill. 
  • The DA has attacked the bill’s changes to the powers of school governing bodies in controlling language and admission policies. 
  • Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi dismissed the DA’s claims of school capture, saying the bill was aimed at diversifying the languages offered by schools. 

The DA is against proposals in the Basic Education Law Amendment Bill, which will see radical changes to the powers of school governing bodies (SGBs) in controlling language and admissions.

The DA held a protest outside the Gauteng education department on Tuesday. The party labelled the bill as the ANC’s attempt at capturing schools that were functional.

The bill has been drafted and an extension to submit written comments on it has been granted until 15 August 2022.

It proposes changes to various parts of the legislation.

The changes to the powers of SGBs have raised the ire of the DA and its supporters. Instead of SGBs having the final say on admissions and the language policies of a school, the head of department (HOD) of the province will be the final authority on the matter.

In terms of the proposed amendments, the HOD would oversee SGBs’ policies on language and admissions.

READ | Panyaza Lesufi: Language used as a ‘false shield’ for exclusion

The DA said the bill was the government’s attempt to discriminate against Afrikaans and possibly do away with schools that only taught in that language.

The party added the government intended to capture the few “good schools” left by forcing admissions.

Its federal council chairperson Helen Zille told a handful of supporters outside the department’s offices the ANC was destroying and not assisting.

Zille said:

The ANC keeps breaking what works. They are looking at the few good schools and saying we must remove the governing body’s powers. Their fundamental point of attack is on language. We know that Mr Lesufi blames all the country’s problems on the minority.

She continued: “We believe mother tongue is the best way for children to learn. The DBE [Department of Basic Education] is saying that governing bodies will no longer have the right to determine language policy, and that right will be for the head of education, and the appeal will be to the MEC. And we all know what that means – it means school capture.

“It means destroying mother tongue education where it still exists.”

Zille labelled the bill as an attempt to take away people’s rights.

READ | ConCourt dismisses Gauteng education department’s appeal in Overvaal language case

“You’d think what they would be doing with the Pan South African Language Board is building up mother tongue education for all language groups, but no, they want to destroy it for the only one where it still works. And that is the ANC strategy. Taking away rights will never solve problems. The solution is fixing the schools that are broken,” she said.

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi called a press briefing shortly after the DA protest.

He said the party was campaigning vigorously for racist and exclusionary practices to remain.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 05: Helen Zille

Helen Zille address DA supporters during a protest against new proposals over education on Tuesday.
Gallo Images Gallo Images/OJ Koloti

Lesufi added the bill aimed to ensure every pupil had a chance to learn and pick a school of their choice.

He said language should not be a barrier that stopped parents from applying to a particular school.

“We believe in a non-racial education system where all languages are equal, and a mother tongue. If you want to learn in Afrikaans or Xhosa, you can do that, but it doesn’t mean one language must dominate the school. Class A can be Afrikaans, and Class B can be Xhosa. What is wrong with that? But we reject the idea of one language dominating the school.”

Lesufi added he found the DA’s stance on the matter opportunistic because the Western Cape education department was involved in approving the bill, meaning the DA had also endorsed it.

The MEC said the bill was aimed at aligning the legislation with already existing court rulings which pointed to HODs and not SGBs as having the final say.

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