Zero Dropout Campaign disappointed by NCOP’s rushed attempt to pass BELA Bill

The Zero Dropout Campaign welcomes the postponement of today’s scheduled vote on the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill.

The postponement was due to the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) not following its own procedures in yet another attempt to rush this and other crucial pieces of legislation through Parliament to avoid them lapsing when this term ends a few weeks.

According to the Department of Basic Education, one of the BELA Bill’s key reformation aims is to address South Africa’s learner dropout crisis, so as pending legislation, it is of utmost importance to the Zero Dropout Campaign. “With other DGMT incubated projects, we previously made a written submission on the BELA Bill to the Basic Education Portfolio Committee. In our submission, we noted that although the proposed Bill, among others, aims to promote learner attendance and reduce dropout rates, it neglected to consider relevant research about the factors driving learner disengagement and dropout,” said Zero Dropout Campaign Programme Director Merle Mansfield.

A number of the recommendations made in our submission to the Portfolio Committee were unfortunately not incorporated and what followed was a worrying legislative process through Parliament. We noted numerous complaints that public hearings were rushed and that notice for them was inconsiderably short – Members of the public in some regions such as Mpumalanga, which require advance notice due to the distance and terrain to travers, were only informed of hearings days if not hours beforehand.

“We appreciate the urgency Parliament has displayed in addressing this legislation and its associated issues. However, it must be processed in an equitable and timely manner, as a rushed process could preclude its legitimacy and jeopardise the future of our education sector,” added Mansfield.

The Zero Dropout Campaign will continue to monitor this crucial Bill’s passing. It has the potential to shift the needle forward on crucial aspects of the education sector, such as learner dropout. However, for it to sufficiently do so, we will continue to advocate for the development and implementation of supplementary policies and initiatives such as early warning systems and psychosocial support to ensure learners remain engaged through their education journey.