ATR comments about the draft basic education laws amendment bill
COMMENTS ABOUT THE DRAFT BASIC EDUCATION LAWS AMENDMENT BILL
Laudable though the stated intentions of the draft Bill might be, the Afrikaans Language Council (ATR) believes the draft Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (the draft Bill) to be deficient in several respects. The following issues are of importance to us:
First, the centralisation of decision making foreseen in the draft Bill, disregards the interests of parents and schools regarding the appointment of teachers and headmasters, the languages of instruction, and courses offered. Parents will not participate in School Governing Bodies (SGBs) or support schools if their role in the good governance of those schools is eroded in fundamental ways;
Second, the weakening of parent support will undermine effective SGBs along with good governance and accountability. The centralisation foreseen in the draft bill will simultaneously do nothing to develop the capacities of less effective or dysfunctional SGBs and the overall capacity of the educational system will be reduced;
Third, the draft bill will likely lead to the reduction of private subsidisation of public schools. This will impact negatively on school finances and the sustainability of schools, also their ability to cover the costs of implementing certain government policies (such as language policies).;
Fourth, the new bureaucracies that will have to be built to administrate all these school functions that were previously dealt with largely free of charge by parents and SGBs, will now have to be funded. The state will find this difficult to do as a result of the fiscal cliff, while economic conditions and tax fatigue will make it equally difficult to extract more taxes and fees from the parents. Accordingly, the resources needed will probably be obtained by reallocating funds from schools to the bureaucracies, which means less money for actual education;
Fifth, the weakening of oversight in the case of functional SGBs will create more scope for the corruption that the draft bill is supposed to address. The bureaucracies themselves are struggling with corruption, and a centralisation of decision making may well create more scope for deepening systemic corruption;
Finally, it does not look as though the draft Bill in its current form takes serious cognisance of the inputs made by a wide range of role players and interested parties, or that it accommodates their legitimate interests and concerns in any meaningful way. The draft bill will have a demoralising and polarising impact on the educational system and will most likely face legal challenge and ongoing resistance;
To conclude, the draft bill seems to be irrational and deficient in that it fails to take account of several likely negative impacts and unintended consequences. In particular, it makes little sense to, completely unnecessarily, create additional costs and financial burdens when the state is unable to balance its books and the country on the cusp of an economic crisis.
By undermining functional SGBs the draft Bill will likely push an already struggling educational system over the edge, creating a new crisis that may cost hundreds of thousands of learners a proper education.
A resource-guzzling bureaucracy is not the answer to the problems faced and is in any event not economically sustainable. Empowered parents who care about their schools along with functional SGBs remain the cheapest and most effective way in which to combat corruption and ensure proper governance at school level. Instead of centralising decision making powers, the Department should rather enter into partnerships with civil society organisations to build the capacities of less effective or dysfunctional SGBs.
We therefore ask that the Bill is withdrawn and redeveloped from scratch in close consultation with all role players.
Dr Conrad Steenkamp
CEO: Afrikaans Language Council
Cell: 078 142 6673