BELA bill declares corporal punishment unlawful, penalties for perpetrators

The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education has adopted the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill with effect from Tuesday, September 27.

According to committee chairperson, Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, corporal punishment is no longer allowed at schools, and perpetrators of this act will be penalised.

Furthermore, Mbingo-Gigaba addressed that Grade R will now be the new compulsory school-starting age, “Penalties will be issued against parents who do not ensure that their children are in school,” she said.

In a statement issued by the Portfolio Committee on Tuesday, it is reported that the bill, which has been more than 20 years in the making, is in line with continuing the transformation agenda of the basic education sector.

Mbinqo-Gigaba said during voting on the bill, the majority of members of the committee voted in support of the bill, while three members voted against the adoption of the bill.

Mbinqo-Gigaba said the proposed amendments are to align the bill with developments in the education landscape and to ensure that systems of learning are put in place in a manner that gives effect to the right to basic education, as enshrined in section 29(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.

She emphasised that the committee extensively deliberated on all clauses of the bill.

“In some instances, all members of the committee agreed that certain proposed amendments did not belong in the bill and ensured that they were removed, whereas in other instances, the committee vigorously debated clauses which saw the majority of members of the committee agreeing to retention of such clauses. This is all to ensure that we better the education landscape of the next generation.

“The committee held extensive public hearings across the country. We heard oral submissions in Parliament from stakeholders and thousands of written submissions were considered when debating and drafting this legislation,” Mbinqo-Gigaba said.

In terms of language policy, the amendment states that the governing body must submit the language policy of a public school and any amendment thereof to the Head of Department (HOD) for approval. 

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