South Africa‘s parliament recently approved a significant education bill that introduces potential penalties, including imprisonment, for parents who do not ensure their children attend school.
The Basic Education Laws Amendment (Bela) could imprison parents for a maximum of 12 months if their children are consistently absent from school or if they fail to enroll them when they reach the appropriate school age.
Additionally, all schools implement a ban on corporal punishment.
The government is overhauling education on a scale not seen since the end of apartheid in 1994.
The governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), asserts that the bill aims to transform our education system by addressing both historical and current challenges.
However, the proposal has faced strong criticism from the Democratic Alliance (DA), the largest opposition party. The DA argues that it grants excessive control to the state over schools and will ultimately result in the deterioration of the education system.
The District Attorney (DA) states that the bill diminishes the authority of schools, parents, and communities and does not address any of the underlying issues that hinder the provision of high-quality education.
The organisation protested during the voting process and intends to challenge the government in the Constitutional Court if the proposed law is enacted.
In parliament, the African National Congress (ANC) holds a significant majority. On Thursday, 223 Members of Parliament (MPs) supported the bill, while only 83 MPs opposed it.
During an interview with SABC News, Mary Metcalf, an education expert, agreed with the notion that parents who fail to send their children to school should face consequences.
Professor Metcalf labeled this as the fundamental requirement of being a parent.
The Bela bill requires schools to submit their language policy to the government, which is another point of contention.
They must ensure that their work caters to the needs of the wider community. They will need to make the necessary changes if they fail to do so.
Many people believe that Afrikaans communities are being assaulted.
The ANC argues that schools exploit language policies, using them as a means of racial exclusion. The party aims to address this issue and bring about change.
The apartheid government compelled students to receive education in Afrikaans, which was regarded as the language associated with white-minority rule. Students extensively protested as a result of the 1976 Soweto Uprising.
Experts state that the education system in South Africa is currently experiencing a crisis.
The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study evaluated the reading skills of 400,000 students worldwide and determined that in 2021, this country ranked last out of the 57 countries assessed.
Earlier this year, researchers conducted a study that revealed that 80% of South African school children struggle with reading by the age of 10.