Following Social Development’s handover of the responsibility of Early Development Centres to Basic Education last week, two years of early childhood development is set to become compulsory for all children.
EVEN though the amendments to the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill will make sending children to Grade R compulsory, education stakeholders have raised concerns about how this will be effectively implemented and monitored.
Following Social Development’s handover of the responsibility of Early Development Centres to Basic Education last week, two years of early childhood development is set to become compulsory for all children before they enter the formal school system in Grade 1.
The amendments were announced by Minister Lindiwe Zulu at a handover of responsibilities event on April 1.
The compulsory schooling change included in the draft Bill states that children be sent to school from the age of 5 and that a parent may, if they wish, enrol their child at school to start Grade R at a younger age.
In addition, stricter punishments will be introduced for parents who fail to ensure their children attend school, including jail time or a fine of up to 12 months.
The Bill indicates that teachers, principals and school governing bodies must take responsibility and accountability for learners that are absent from school for more than three consecutive days without a valid reason.
It reiterates that no one is allowed to inflict or impose corporal punishment on a learner at school, during school activities, or at a hostel accommodating learners.
Initiation practices at such hostels have also been prohibited.
The Bill introduces further clarity on home-schooling, including that learners may be educated at home only if they are registered for such education.
Education specialist Hendrik Makaneta said in South Africa at present, it was only a criminal offence not to send a child to Grade 1. The current legislation said nothing about Grade R, which he said was the most crucial part of the learning journey.
Makaneta said he welcomed the amendments taking into consideration the importance of the foundation phase as it set the stage for learners’ schooling prospects.
He said the change would hopefully address performance issues that arose when learners started their schooling late, such as being unable to cope and eventually dropping out.
“The foundation phase is the most important part of a child’s school career, so having laws regulating this will address the issue of children in the long run, experiencing difficulties in school.
“The challenge of all this is implementation and monitoring so that parents will actually comply once it is put as law.”