The South African parliament has passed a significant education bill mandating that parents ensure their children attend school or face a jail term.
In South Africa where 8 out of 10 South African school children struggle with reading by the age of 10, the legislative move marks the most substantial education reform since the end of apartheid in 1994.
The Bela bill also includes a prohibition on corporal punishment across all educational institutions.
Although advocates of the bill, notably the African National Congress (ANC), believe it will revolutionize the education system to confront current and historical challenges, the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has criticized the bill, citing concerns that the education bill was excessive government control over schools which may lead to the potential deterioration of the education system.
Despite the DA’s protests, the bill, however, garnered significant support in parliament, with 223 members of the parliament in favor and 83 standing against it. As a result of the ANC’s dominant position in parliament, the bill’s passage was allowed in spite of the DA threatening legal action should it become law.
Education specialist Mary Metcalf, in agreement with the bill, emphasized that it is a fundamental responsibility of parenthood to ensure children’s attendance at school.