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To: Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga
Minister Motshekga, keep South African schools as alcohol-free zones!!
We are delighted that the work of civil society organisations and communities has paid off and the Bill has now been adopted by the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education. We urge the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces to move with speed so that the president can sign it into law. https://saapa.africa/scrapping-of-alcohol-clause-in-the-basic-education-legislation-amendment-bill-is-a-win-for-the-health-and-development-of-south-african-children/
Minister Motshekga, you realised in 2015 that liquor is a problem in schools and so you proposed in the first draft of the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill that it be banned from school premises. Now, in 2022, section 8(1)(b) of the latest version of the Bill still says liquor should be banned from school premises BUT, in the very next section - 8(1)(c) - it says schools CAN have liquor on school premises and at school activities off school premises, mainly for fund-raising purposes. Why the contradiction?
You argue that some schools are already doing it and so the new legislation will formalise it for all schools. It is clearly not a majority of schools, so why make a law that serves the interests of a minority? Why encourage those that currently keep alcohol out of schools, making them safe spaces for learners, to consider allowing alcohol in their schools out of desperation for additional funding?
Why is the government not exploring and supporting alternative fundraising options for schools, instead of legalising the use on school premises of a product that causes non-communicable diseases such as cancer, road crashes and interpersonal violence, including GBV? It is unethical and irresponsible to try and address one problem – that of funding – by creating another ie potentially causing multiple socio-economic challenges in schools by allowing alcohol to be available there.
Already the use of liquor is ‘normalised’ in the eyes of learners through advertising and liquor use in their neighbourhoods, sometimes very close to their schools. Now you want them to see liquor use further 'normalised' by allowing it on school premises and at school events off school premises as well? It will exacerbate the existing problem of alcohol use by learners, educators, management and support staff that everyone knows takes place on some school premises, even during school hours. We do not believe that whatever safeguards are contemplated in the legislation can guarantee that children will be protected – there are already adults working in some schools who have shown that they cannot be trusted to put the best interests of learners first.
Your initial response was the correct one - ban liquor from school premises and make schools a safe space for learners where they are shielded from harmful products and from the challenges they have to face in the world outside school premises. You justify your change of heart by saying that 'alcohol has its place in our society. Yes, it does. But it doesn't follow that alcohol has a place in our schools.
Minister, in 2017, when the Western Cape government proposed similar changes to their education law, you and others correctly challenged them and said it wasn't the right thing to do. Was that just politics or was it out of genuine concern for the wellbeing of learners? Why do you think it’s the ‘right thing’ to do now? We challenge you and say: No, it's not the right thing to do.
We call on you to stay true to your response in 2017. Retain section 8(1)(b) in the BELA Bill, which bans liquor on school premises and at school functions, in the same way, that illegal drugs and dangerous weapons are banned - and scrap section 8(1)(c) except for the part allowing staff who live on school premises to have liquor for their personal use in their homes, under strict conditions. THAT will be the right thing to do.
Why is this important?
This is an issue that affects everyone in our society - learners, educators, school admin staff, and anyone who has, or will have, a child in the school system. There is a saying that 'it takes a village to raise a child'. Well, it takes a caring society to protect its children from exposure to the risk of harm. Alcohol use is already a major problem in our country.
Schools in some communities already face the challenge of having large numbers of liquor outlets around them and very close to them. Some already have problems with alcohol being used on their premises. Making it possible for schools to have liquor for the purpose of fund-raising simply increases the risks for all of those at schools - learners, educators, admin staff, and even family members who interact with the school.
If schools have a problem raising funds, government and society must work with them to address it in other ways - allowing schools to raise money through liquor is not the answer. We should be better than that as a society, as South Africans.
We call on you to join us in urging the government to scrap the sections in the BELA Bill which will allow liquor on school premises and at school events.
Support the call for a complete ban on liquor on school premises (except for personal use by staff who live on school property).
Demand better funding models for our schools so that all children have access to quality education in a safe and protected environment.
Fly a blue ribbon at your school in support of the campaign; wear blue ribbons as a group as you participate in school activities.
Write to the Minister at [email protected] to tell her what you think of the alcohol clauses in the BELA Bill.
Write to the Portfolio Committee in Parliament by 15 June to register your opposition to the alcohol clauses in the Bill - Mr Llewellyn Brown, the Committee Secretary via email: [email protected] or online at https://forms.gle/MoC6AdbdQyYPk3Y49 or via WhatsApp: +27 60 550 9848. Mr Llewellyn Brown can be reached on 083 709 8450 for enquiries.
Download the BELA Bill from https://www.parliament.gov.za/storage/app/media/Bills/2022/B2_2022_Basic_Education_Laws_Amendment_Bill/B2_2022_Basic_Education_Laws_Amendment_Bill.pdf
Together we can win this one!