SOUTH AFRICAN SCHOOLS ACT AMENDMENT
Private Members’ Bill
Submitted in terms of Section 73 (2)
Read with Section 76 (1) of the Constitution
Notice is hereby given of the introduction of a Private Members’ Bill in terms of Section 73 (2) read with Section 76 (1) of the Constitution. In terms of rule 234 (read with rule 230 (1), a member must submit to the Speaker a memorandum which:
(a) sets out particulars of the proposed legislation
(b) explains the objects of the proposed legislation; and
(c) states whether the proposed legislation will have financial implications for the State and, if so, whether those implications may be a determining factor when the proposed legislation is considered.
The Honourable Speaker is requested to deal with this Bill in terms of Section 235 of the National Assembly Rules.
The following amendments to the South African Schools Act 1996 (Act 84 of 1996) [hereinafter referred to as “the Act”] are proposed:
1. AMENDMENTS TO THE ACT
1.1 In Chapter 2, Section 3 (5), replace “If a learner who is subject to compulsory attendance in terms of subsection (1) is not enrolled at or fails to attend a school, the Head of Department may-” with “If a learner who is subject to compulsory attendance in terms of subsection (1) is not enrolled at or fails to attend a school, the Head of Department must-”
1.2 In Chapter 3, Section 12, insert the following as sub-section (7):
(7) In order to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the constitutional right to a basic education, the Member of the Executive Council must provide learners with an education that is available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable. This requires the Member of the Executive Council to:
(a) Make available all necessary and reasonable human and material resources, including adequately trained educators, school buildings, classrooms, furniture, teaching equipment, books and writing materials, as well as access to sanitation, water and electricity so that educational institutions and programmes are able to function effectively and be available to all learners;
(b) Make education both economically and physically accessible on the basis of non-discrimination;
(c) Create the conditions for an acceptable learning environment by providing for (i) the design of curricula and implementation of teaching methods that enable learners to meet basic learning needs such as literacy, numeracy and oral expression; and (ii) measures that protect educational institutions and learners from violence, crime, lawlessness, abuse and gangsterism;
(d) Adopt policy measures to ensure that the education system is adaptable and able to respond to the needs of learners who come from diverse social, cultural and language backgrounds.
Section 29 (1) (a) of the
Constitution of the
The right to basic education is direct and immediate. Unlike many of the other socio-economic rights enshrined in the Constitution, it is unqualified by “reasonable legislative measures”, “progressive realisation” or “available resources”. As such, the state must implement measures giving effect to the right as a matter of absolute priority.
There is currently no official definition of basic education in national legislation, which makes it difficult to enforce the right. The White Paper on Education and Training states that “appropriately designed education programmes to the level of…one year reception class plus 9 years of schooling…would adequately define basic education for the purposes of the constitutional requirement”.
It is submitted, however, that basic education should not be defined in terms of age or the completion of a particular level of schooling alone. Rather, in terms of international best practice and international human rights law – in particular, General Comment No 13 of the Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights – basic education should be defined as education that is available, accessible, acceptable and adaptable.
Accordingly, this Private Members Bill seeks to define the scope, content and meaning of basic education within the framework of availability, accessibility, acceptability and adaptability.
Furthermore, given the relatively low enrolment rates and high drop-out rates in South African public schools, which mean that many learners drop out of school before they are functionally literate or numerate, this Private Members Bill also seeks to make it obligatory for the state to investigate why a learner is failing to attend school.
The State spends very significant amounts of money on providing primary education but it has become apparent that much of that money is not spent to best advantage because there is no benchmark against which spending priorities are determined. If such benchmarking in terms of internationally agreed norms took place, the budget could target areas requiring additional expenditure and make significant savings in other areas.
The Legislation will have no financial implications.