While Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi labelled criticism of the draft Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (Bela) "apartheid nostalgia", the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) raised serious concerns over a bill it says aims to "fix what is not broken".
The draft bill proposes to drastically reduce the responsibilities of school governing bodies to appoint personnel and gives provincial education departments the power to approve and change schools' language policies.
Public comment for the bill closed on Friday.
In a statement on Tuesday, Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said the bill "is seeking the wrong solutions for the right problems".
"The Draft Amendment Bill proceeds from the premise that officials in the education departments are somehow more competent and/or objective than parents," Schäfer said.
"We have seen first-hand that this is certainly not always the case."
Schäfer believed remedies contained in existing legislation have not been used correctly to address education inefficiencies.
Her concerns about the bill included:
- It would create an "administrative nightmare" if heads of department had to approve admission and language policies.
- The bill takes away power given specifically to governing bodies "in a move to make the public school system more democratic".
- Current remedies exist to challenge problems found in school policies.
- Education departments should rather be allowed a representative on shortlisting and interview panels instead of taking over the entire process.
- Ineffective school governing bodies can already be removed through current legalisation.
Schäfer said: "In summary, we cannot fix the problems arising from a captured criminal justice system, an ineffective state bureaucracy and lack of skills by providing for increased state interference in our schools."
Since the draft Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill was introduced in October, it has raised the ire of school governing bodies and education bodies alike.
On Monday, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said there's been "overwhelming response" to the bill which will "diligently be considered".
Unfortunately, the deadline for public comment could not be extended as requested, Motshekga said.
She, however, reiterated that public comment for the draft bill will be reopened once it has been sent to the Education Portfolio committee for consideration.
"The Portfolio Committee may hold public hearings in keeping with the normal practice."