The Bela bill is the biggest education reform in South Africa since apartheid
Under the Basic Education Laws Amendment (Bela), they could be jailed for up to 12 months if their children are truant, or if they are not enrolled when they reach school age.
It is the biggest education overhaul since the end of apartheid in 1994.
However, the biggest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has condemned it, saying it gives the state too much control over schools and will lead to the collapse of education.
The DA says the bill “disempowers schools, parents, and communities and fails to address a single one of the systemic challenges that impede quality education”.
The ANC has a huge majority in parliament and the bill was backed by 223 MPs, with just 83 against, on Thursday.
Education expert Mary Metcalf told SABC News she agreed that there should be consequences for parents who do not send their children to school.
Another point of contention in the Bela bill is that schools will be required to submit their language policy to the government.
They must ensure it meets the needs of the broader community – if they do not, they will have to change it.
Many feel this is an attack on Afrikaans communities.
But the ANC says language policies have been exploited and used “as a proxy for racial exclusion” by schools, which the party wants to change.
During the years of white-minority rule, students were forced to learn in Afrikaans, which was seen as the language of the apartheid government. This led to massive protests by students – the 1976 Soweto Uprising.
Experts say that South Africa’s education system is in crisis.
In 2021, it ranked last out of 57 countries assessed in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, which tested the reading ability of 400,000 students around the world.
Source; BBC News