Grade R and teaching in another language: Here’s how schooling could change if amendments are made

Basic education laws amendment Bill

The bill intends to make school mandatory beginning in grade R. File photo.
The bill intends to make school mandatory beginning in grade R. File photo.
Image: 123RF/ Pay Less Images

Significant changes have been proposed to the basic education laws amendment bill, with new measures on the cards for school governing bodies and parents.

This week the department of basic education published an explanatory summary of the bill. 

The bill proposes a number of changes to the regulations in schools, including pupil attendance and conditions under which alcohol may be on school premises. 

Here are six big changes proposed in the bill.

Compulsory schooling

The bill intends to make school mandatory beginning in grade R. To enforce this, the bill will amend the penalty provision which will see anyone who blocks a child from attending school without just cause, including parents, schools or governing bodies, facing a possible fine and/or imprisonment.

School governing bodies

The bill states governing bodies must disclose and declare any direct or indirect personal interest they or a family member may have in the recruitment or employment of staff at a public school, or in the procurement of goods and services for a public school, and to recuse themselves from a meeting of the governing body in such circumstances.


The bill states the head of department may direct a public school to use more than one language of instruction where it is practical to do so. If the head of department  issues such a directive, he or she must take all necessary steps to ensure the public school receives the resources to enable it to provide adequate tuition in the additional language of instruction.

The bill also recognises SA sign language as an official language to learn at a public school.

Drugs and alcohol

The bill will redefine provisions relating to the possession of drugs on school premises or during school activities and to provide for conditions under which liquor may be possessed, sold or consumed on school premises or during school activities.

Code of conduct

The bill states the code of conduct of a public school must take into account the diverse cultural beliefs, religious observances and medical circumstances of pupils at the school. It must also include an exemption clause and for disciplinary proceedings to be dealt with in an age-appropriate manner and in the best interests of the pupil. 

Initiation and corporal punishment

The bill prohibits corporal punishment and initiation practices during school activities and at hostels accommodating pupils of a school. 


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