Author Archives: Shirley

Responses to Approved Home Education Policy

On 14 July 2018 the Pestalozzi Trust heard that  that the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) was to meet the following week and that the Draft Policy on Home Education was on the agenda.

The Trust urged homeschoolers to email the DBE and ask for this to be postponed:

“We require this opportunity because despite requests made over a month ago the
Department of Basic Education has not shared any information concerning the details of changes to the draft Policy. Without this information we are being deprived our democratic right to consult with our government in a meaningful fashion.”

Although hundreds emails were sent and home educators also called in to make their requests, the pleas were ignored and the policy remained on the agenda.

On 23 July 2018, ACDP Member of Parliament, Cheryllyn Dudley also asked the DBE for answers to some pertinent questions about this matter.

 

On 30 July 2018 the Department of Basic Education (DBE) published a press release announcing that the amended draft policy on home education had been approved for promulgation by the Minister.
The full press release can be read online at this link:

Council of Education Ministers approves Home Education Policy for promulgation, 30 July 2018

 

Co-incidentally, on the same day, the Pestalozzi Trust published a press release at the link below:

New Home Education Policy Steam-rollered Through

It stated that,

Secrecy was the order of the day
Not only was the DBE unwilling to release the final version of the Policy to the public, it was
not even willing to divulge to those parents who called in whether a CEM meeting would take
place, or whether home education was on the agenda.”

Adv Megan Puchert of the Eastern Cape Home School Association was quoted saying:

“It seems as though the cart was placed before the horse. Changes to
the SA Schools Act are still being debated and discussed, whereas several of these
proposed changes have been incorporated into the Policy through a back door.”

Further, Chairman of the Trust, Bouwe van der Eems added that:

“A policy based on a flawed public participation process will merely
increase conflict. A policy based on a law that does not yet exist will cause chaos.”

 

On 31 July, the ACDP published the following statement on their Facebook page in support of the home education movement’s cause:

ACDP labels Home Education Policy ‘unworkable in practice’

The ACDP has come out in support of the Home Education community and shares many of their concerns which include among other things, that home education under the current act is treated as a form of independent education and that aspects of the draft policy are measures appropriate to public education.

ACDP Member of Parliament Cheryllyn Dudley today said that “the ACDP is of the opinion that the policy is unworkable in practice. Under-resourced provincial education departments will not be able to cope with the administrative burden of the policy, and significant additional costs will be placed on home educating families”.

The Media Published the DBE Press Release

30 July – The Sowetan – New home-schooling policy set to be implemented

1 August – Cape Times – Controversial policy on homeschooling to become law

3 August – Daily Dispatch – DBE moves on home schooling

 

3 August – Business Day published a letter from a home educator – Home Educators Ignored

 

Radio Interviews

In response to the press release by the DBE, a number of South African radio stations interviewed various home education representatives

RSG

Bouwe van der Eems

1 August 2018, RSG interviewed a spokesperson from the DBE, Troy Maartens and then asked Bouwe van der Eems of the Pestalozzi Trust to respond.

Below is a link to the podcast

 

 

 

 


Radio 786

Megan PuchertAdv Megan Puchert made some very clear comments about the policy. She highlighted that she was being asked to respond to a policy that she had not yet seen as it had not yet been published or promulgated yet. She discussed many of the concerns that home educators have with the guidelines for monitoring and controlling home educating families.

Interview on home education policy on Radio 786 with Megan Puchert


Vuma FM

Bouwe Van Der Eems, Chairperson of the Pestalozzi Trust, was asked for comments  by on Vuma FM. These were aired during their  news bulletin at 14h00. In a extremely short clip he was quoted saying that  the public needs to be made aware of the benefits of home education and that  the DBE does not seem to have sufficient knowledge of home education in South Africa to be able formulate and effective policy. 


Cape Talk – The John Maythem Show

At 16h10 Shirley Erwee was grilled with some challenging questions about the need to monitor and regulate home educators on the John Maythem show. Here is a link to the recording.


 SAFm

3 August – Adv. Megan Puchert, Chairperson of the Eastern Cape Homeschooling Association, was interviewed on SAFM

 

 


Comments on “illegal independent schools”

16  December 2017

Attention: Ms P Ngcobo

Dear Ms P Ngcobo,

Draft POLICY ON HOME EDUCATION – Comments on “illegal independent schools.”

I am most grateful for the extended deadline for comments on the draft Policy on Home Education and wish to focus in this submission on the phenomenon of “illegal independent schools”.

Executive Summary

The draft policy makes mention of “illegal independent schools” commonly referred to as cottage schools, in three places.

The laws and policies that govern South Africa’s independent schooling system raise issues affecting the rights of learners and their parents and the private individuals that establish and run these educational centres.

Instead of consulting with role players, the DBE has sought to outlaw a new industry that is mushrooming on the educational landscape in South Africa.

This is a major blunder on the part of the DBE and will potentially have negative consequences for all parties concerned.

The DBE needs to reconsider this decision and engage in meaningful consultations with the cottage school industry so that regulations, which respect the constitutional rights and freedom of individuals, which are practical and mutually-agreeable, can be formulated to help improve this new, unique, educational sector.

Background

I am both a home educating parent of 20 years, a provider of uniquely South African homeschool curriculum products and a home education consultant.

I have had experience with many parents of children looking for cottage schools as well as owners of cottage schools, who contact me for advice and resources for this form of education. I have participated on cottage school platforms on social media for some years and become well acquainted with this industry and some of its role players. I have also sometimes been consulted in situations where there was conflict between a parent and a cottage school.

Further, for the past 18 months I have been educating a close family member’s child who does not live in my home, so technically I have been operating a cottage school for one, while home educating the remaining 5 of my own 6 children, who are still at home.

The reasons that parents choose to send their children to a cottage school are many and varied. In most cases, this choice stems from the state school system being unable to meet the learning needs of the child or negative aspects encountered in the school system such as bullying, violence, labelling, name-calling by teachers, pressure to medicate children with Ritalin or similar drugs and/or extreme anxiety or depression on the part of the child.

Parents find that this sector provides solutions for their children’s educational needs, which are not available in the mainstream school system.

In some cases, such as the case of the child I have been schooling, she herself, asked to be removed from school at a time when she was experiencing emotional turmoil at home. She chose to join our family to be educated in a place where she could get individual attention, where there was family who know her intimately, who understand her circumstances and cared about her emotional well-being. Her parents both agreed that this would be in her best interests. They all saw the many other advantages of education in a home-away-from-home.

Many parents choose a cottage school for similar reasons. They believe it is in the best interests of their child for the child to be educated in a cottage school environment, where classes are small and children can get the individual attention they need to reach their full potential. Children need to feel emotionally safe to learn and for many, this is not possible in mainstream classrooms.

In some cases, parents are advised by the school to remove their child as the teachers know that they can’t give the child the academic support s/he needs.

One parent was told to remove her child from school in grade 1. She was told he would never get matric due to being on the Autism spectrum. She started homeschooling him, then 8 years ago started schooling other children with learning difficulties and in 2017 her son, age 18, completed a foreign grade 12 equivalent and has been accepted to university for 2018. So have many other learners at this cottage school.

This is just one of many, incredible success stories about children who have attended cottage schools, which have given them an individualized education and enabled them to progress academically, heal from the emotional damage they experienced at school, improve their self-confidence and discover that they can succeed at whatever they choose to do, despite learning difficulties.

Comment

It is therefore very distressing to see that the Draft Policy refers to cottage schools as “illegal independent educational institutions” and effectively outlaws parents who send their children to cottage schools.

Draft Policy on Home Education

Definitions: “illegal independent educational institution” means a variety of independent educational institutions operating like schools such as cottage school, tutor centre, home school centres, tutorial centre whilst not registered with a PED in terms of the act;

Section 8(2)(2) “an illegal independent educational institution i.e. unregistered with the state in terms of the Act such as certain institutions that have become commonly known as tutorial centres, cottage schools and micro schools do not form part of the scope of home education.”

Section 10(1) the responsibilities and roles of the parent shall include but not limited to- … (k)(iii) associate herself or himself or cause the child to be associated with any illegal independent educational institution in respect of the home education provision. Such an association in violation of the act, is not in the best interests of the learner, and shall amount to a reason upon which the HOD may investigate and which may lead to withdrawal of the registration of a learner to receive education at home.

The very reason for the success of so many of these cottage schools rests on the fact that they are NOT independent replicas of the state school system, which is essentially what most registered independent schools are forced to be.

They are successful because they follow different pedagogical models, have different philosophies of learning and do not have to follow the CAPS curriculum used in state and registered independent schools. Because of these and many other factors, they are unable to fulfil many of the provincial requirements for registration as independent schools.

Secondly, since many of them only enrol a small number of learners, it is not financially viable to go through the red tape that is required for registration.

It is undeniable that this model of education is snowballing in South Africa as more and more parents are dissatisfied with the state school system and can’t afford private schooling and do not wish to implement home education.

The problem with these schools being illegal, is that most of them do not advertise openly and operate ‘underground’ and there is therefore, very little accountability in the industry.
There are some which are reported to be ripping off desperate parents by delivering an unsatisfactory service.

If cottage schools were legalised, the industry could more easily self-regulate. For example, much like bed-and-breakfasts can advertise their establishments on accommodation websites where clients can rate their services and give reviews of their experiences, so too cottage schools could be regulated by similar websites.

In this way, the good cottage schools will be glad to be listed and advertise their services and the fly-by-nights and scammers will either stay under the radar and not get listed on such websites or they will be exposed by their dissatisfied clients.

Parents will be in a better position to check on the reputation of cottage schools before enrolling their children at centres that offer an inferior service.

Just like government does not have to monitor and control the service at restaurants and BnB’s, but they operate and succeed based on their good service and good reputation, so too cottage schools should be legalised and allowed to self-regulate as free market business enterprises.

Since parents who place their children in these schools are primarily responsible for the education of their children, it is the parent’s task to ensure that the child’s right to a basic education is being realised. It is the parent’s role to ensure that the education received is in the child’s best interests. This is a point that the DBE needs to concede.

Parents who choose something other than mainstream schooling for their children are not children that the DBE needs to control, instead they should be respected as free thinking, responsible, adult citizens who can take responsibility for their actions and choices for their children.

With the legalisation of cottage schools, networking in the industry and the sharing of essential information to help both owners and parents would also be facilitated: For example, information about complying with municipal and safety regulations,  questions for parents to ask cottage schools before enrolling a child and guidelines of how cottage schools should report back to parents on the progress of the learners. Guidelines for avoiding or dealing with potential conflicts between schools and parents could also be more easily shared.

Making cottage schools illegal in the current educational climate in South Africa, is not going to make this phenomenon go away, it is just going to make it go underground.

The best possible solution is to legalise cottage schools and to engage with the cottage school industry to ensure compliance with a minimum of mutually agreed-upon regulations.

The DBE needs to take steps to cultivate an atmosphere of trust before there will be any chance of open and constructive dialogue with the cottage school industry.

Firstly, the DBE needs to acknowledge that cottage schools are catering for a vast number of learners whose needs cannot be accommodated in the state school system. They are providing a service that is essential for many children to realise their right to a basic education outside of the school system.

The DBE needs to respect the choice of parents who are intimately positioned to be able to decide what is in the best interests of their own children. The DBE might be knowledgeable on classroom didactics and educational management, but officials of the DBE do not know what is best for individual children.

The DBE needs to declare a period of amnesty so that cottage school owners will be willing to engage and negotiate without fear of persecution and prosecution.

The DBE needs to recognise that too many rules, regulations and expensive red tape will be counter productive and will just drive cottage schools underground once more.

Imposing a school model of education on cottage schools will destroy the many benefits they currently offer.

This is an innovative sector and they should be encouraged to continue to find and to provide solutions for the learners they serve.

The DBE needs to allow parents and cottage school owners to resolve their conflicts just like any other citizens conducting business do, in civil courts if necessary and not try to micro-manage an industry that is already operating successfully most of the time.

Conclusion

Most cottage schools offer a form of education that is vastly different from the state school system and they are able to give children an individualised education.

Many cottage schools cater not only for the academic needs of the learners but also their emotional needs, which has a big impact on the child’s ability to learn.

A growing, but unknown number of parents are dissatisfied with the mainstream school system and are choosing this form of education for their children as they believe it is in their children’s best interests. It offers solutions which are not provided elsewhere.

Since parents are the best persons to decide what is in the best interests of a child, until proven otherwise, the DBE needs to respect the choices of citizens and their freedom instead of criminalising this choice of schooling.

The school system is so dysfunctional at present that outlawing cottage schools will not cause them to disappear, instead it will drive them further underground.

To minimise some of the problems in the cottage school industry such as learning centres that are not serving their clients well, the industry needs to be legalised so that it can be openly self-regulated in a free market economy.

The DBE needs to engage with role-players and establish a minimum of mutually-agree upon regulations to help cottage schools to function effectively and serve the children who attend them well.

In order to give cottage school owners the courage to engage with the DBE, there needs to be a period of amnesty for unregistered independent schools and the DBE needs to express appreciation and respect for the role these innovative schools are playing on the educational landscape, acknowledge the good work they are doing in catering for learners whose needs are not easily met in the mainstream system and cultivate an atmosphere of trust.

“Democracy is a fragile and complex matter, which needs constant scrutiny of all in society. It is important for legislators to stay in tune with people in all sectors of society and take steps to ensure legislation keeps pace with and addresses the needs of the people in a way that is meaningful to them.” ~ Kenneth Meshoe, National Assembly, 28 November 2017

Shirley Erwee

Shirley’s Comments on the Draft Policy on Home Education

 

[Note: In my submission I included quotes from the Discussion Document on Home Education 17/06/2015 distributed by the DBE to attendees at their meeting on home education in July 2015. This document was clearly marked “for consultation purposes, not for publication or general distribution”. I have therefore edited this webpage and removed the quotations and replaced them with a short summary in parentheses.]

DRAFT POLICY ON HOME EDUCATION – Comment on the Policy

  1. Summary

I welcome and appreciate my democratic right and duty to comment on the draft policy on home education. As a home educating parent, curriculum provider and home education consultant this is very important to me as the draft policy potentially has significant implications for my own children of compulsory school age and the families, whom I serve in the wider home educating community.

It has been incredibly stressful to find the time to research both the draft policy and the BELA Bill which were published just over a month apart, at a time of year when my two home-based businesses are at their busiest and we are swamped with year-end functions for the activities that our family are involved in.

In spite of many late nights, spent researching and studying this, I have not been able to give this matter the time and full attention that I would have liked to, so that I can understand the policy and laws and their implications adequately and properly formulate my objections and arguments against them. I will continue this process even after the closing date for comments, in order to be better informed and more capable of giving appropriate comments in future.

My comments will not follow a clause-by-clause analysis of the draft policy as requested, as I believe that it is fundamentally flawed and should be withdrawn and redrafted.

Instead I object to the lack of adequate time for public participation at the busiest time of the year, just before the school holidays and festive season and so close on the heels of the BELA Bill.

I object to the lack of meaningful consultation with home education stakeholders and the disregard shown for the limited input that was received by the DBE from home education representatives in 2014 and 2015. This was a façade, but their intention to make home education conform to the suit the interests of the DBE and other stakeholders has become evident.

Although the laws pertaining to children, parents and education were included in the policy, which is a good thing, the practical implications of the policy are in conflict with most of these and violate the rights of children. There is no good evidence to support the need to limit the rights and freedom of home educating families.

I also present evidence that the policy has not followed the guidelines of the DBE’s own task team on home education. I have quoted a number of times from the Discussion Document on Home Education distributed by the DBE in June 2015 and referenced it in my footnotes. This document was distributed to participants of the meetings about home education held by the DBE in Pretoria in July 2015. I was one of the attendees and I find it disappointing that the DBE has subsequently ignored the advice of their own Task Team on Home Education, who compiled that document and the significant information that was contained in it.

It is self-implicating evidence of their subsequent disregard for the available research on home education, their lack of knowledge and experience of this educational phenomenon and the lack of meaningful engagement and co-operation with home educators to find common ground and a solution to points of contention.

I recommend that this process should be restarted and a new draft policy should be written or the DBE will find itself facing many unintended consequences.

 

  1. General Comments

 2.1 Lack of time for meaningful public participation

 The draft policy was published on 17 November 2017 and the closing date for comments is a mere 21 days later, on 8 December 2017. This is completely inadequate for members of the public, who are not well-schooled in the legalities of legislating or education, to read and understand this document and then formulate their comments and any objections.

This letter is written under duress as I have had to spend considerable time researching various aspects of the policy and laws pertaining to my children’s rights, my parental responsibilities, educational freedom, freedom of expression and reasonable and just limitations on personal freedom as enshrined in the Constitution. I have not yet completed that research or studied and understood fully that which I have already discovered.

Considering that this falls in one of the busiest time of the year, 21 days can hardly be adequate time for effective public participation.

In the spirit of true democracy, public participation should be encouraged and facilitated.

In the Constitution of South Africa, Section 195(1)(e) provides that the public administration “must be governed by the democratic values and principles enshrined in the Constitution”, including that the people’s “needs must be responded to, and the public must be encouraged to participate in policy-making”. Section 195(1)(g), further, provides that transparency “must be fostered by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information”.

The Constitution enjoins the public administration to encourage public participation in policy making. Allowing only 21 days at the peak busy time of the year hardly suggests that the DBE is sincerely seeking and encouraging public participation.

I would urge the DBE to show good faith and extend the date for comments until well after the festive season in the new year to 2 February 2018.

 

 2.2 Lack of meaningful consultation with home education stakeholders

Although some home education representatives, including myself, were invited to attend meetings with the DBE task team on home education in 2014 and 2015, it appears that this was merely a façade as there is no evidence that the intentions of the DBE to control home education were influenced and changed in any significant way after that.

Public participation does not simply mean inviting stakeholders to give a presentation, it means that policy makers should actually listen to them and be influenced by their input and work towards mutually agreeable, workable legislation for the benefit of those it affects. The DBE needs to remember that their role is to serve citizens in a democratic society.

 

The Discussion Document on Home Education dated 6/17/2015 published by the Home Education Task Team for Discussion with the Home Education Stakeholder community at the meetings I attended in 2015 stated:

[Quotation removed. In a nutshell, it listed guidelines for formulating an effective policy that will be acceptable to home educators and fulfill the responsibilities of the state] [1]

This was encouraging. It is my guess that most of that working document was written by Dr Trevor Coombe as he was the only member of the DBE who seemed to have studied home education research and showed in his discussion, an indepth appreciation for home education as a vastly different paradigm from the state school system.

 

Unfortunately, he retired shortly after that meeting and what happened thereafter showed that the above was completely disregarded by the remaining members of the DBE task team on home education:

After that, only three of the group of home educators present in July 2015 were invited back to participate further in the working groups, in their personal capacities.

These home education representatives reported that they felt a moral obligation to withdraw from the process as their inputs were being ignored, but the DBE seemed intent on using their names to keep up the façade of consultation with stakeholders. They all offered to be available in an advisory capacity thereafter, but their offers were ignored.[2]

There was little to no effort to

  • continue build good relationships with home education representatives,
  • to listen to the objections and conflicted responses of the three home educators invited to the subsequent working group meetings in their personal capacities,
  • there was no effort to find solutions to the issue or common ground on the contentious issues raised in previous meetings
  • no further effort to develop mutual trust and
  • there has been no independent research by the DBE to present convincing evidence that the proposed changes to the policy are needed and in the best interests of the children they affect.

The content of the draft policy is evidence that the DBE has ignored the intimate knowledge of home education, which was presented to them by home education stakeholders, which the majority of DBE officials most definitely lack, being bureaucrats, whose experience is limited to that of the school system. It displays a shocking level of ignorance and arrogance on the part of the DBE.

For this reason, this policy should be withdrawn until the above fundamental requirements proposed by the DBE task team itself have been met.

 

“Collecting data on human learning based on children’s behavior in school is like collecting data on killer whales based on their behavior at Sea World.” ~ Carol Black [3]

 

 

2.3 The draft Policy pre-empts discussion of the BELA Bill in Parliament

The draft Basic Education Amendments Laws Bill was published in October 2017. It seems a waste of time, effort and resources to publish a draft policy based on the current version of the SA Schools Act, if the intention is to amend it by means of the BELA Bill in the near future.

The content of the draft policy refers to proposed amendments which appear in the draft BELA Bill and not in the current SA Schools Act. This confirms that the DBE is intent on steamrollering its own agenda through Parliament, without first being influenced by the process of meaningful public participation and amending these two draft documents accordingly.

 

2.4 Not evidence-based

Since very few officials of the DBE seem to have done much research on home education in South Africa or the world, the proposed amendments and intervention in the draft policy is not supported by evidence and it may be found to be arbitrary, irrational and unconstitutional.

The proposed changes seem to focus solely on meeting the needs of the bureaucracy and the one home education curriculum provider, whose representatives participated in the working group on monitoring and curriculum implementation. It seems to suit the financial interests of the latter enterprise and not the home educating citizens, particularly the children, that are most affected by the policy and its requirements.

It does not respect the legal position of the Constitution and the Children’s Act defining where the responsibility for the education of children lies. Instead it shows a desire to administer, monitor and control home education, with unreasonable and unjustifiable effects on the rights of the children.

This is unconstitutional as the constitution states that “the best interests of the child must be paramount” in all decisions and the onus lies on the DBE to show that any limitations are reasonable and justifiable.

[Quotation removed. It said that a viable policy must be born out of a good understanding of home education, based on trustworthy research.][4] [5]

As the two quotes above show, the DBE has failed to take its own task team’s advice!

I recommend that this advice should be followed and the current policy should be withdrawn until this goal has been achieved.

Only by conducting proper research or at least acknowledging international research on home education, can the DBE show the public that its policies are supported by evidence and that they will benefit the home educating families in South Africa.

Without proper research and a “thorough knowledge of home education” and all its diversity, achieving a policy that is lawful in terms of the Constitution, acceptable to home educators, enforceable and not rife with unintended consequences and contentious issues is highly unlikely.

A considerable bibliography was provided in the DBE’s Discussion Document on Home Education in 2015 and officials would be better equipped to serve home educators well if they studied those resources in order to be better informed about home education and all that it entails.

2.5 Potentially Violates Home Education as a Human Right and Responsibilities of Home Educators

The central issue that concerns all home educators is the rights of their children and their responsibility to protect their children from unreasonable and unjust interference from the state.  The policy has failed to demonstrate that the many restrictive requirements it proposes are reasonable and justifiable.

Instead it gives absolute discretion to the Head of Department (HOD) and the officials s/he may delegate to perform his/her functions and this makes it open to inconsistency and abuse.

While the policy does include sections from the Constitution as well as legal instruments that pertain to education and children, there are also sections which violate these legal requirements and may render it unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable.

It is unlikely that parents will comply with this policy in its current form.

I recommend that the DBE should read the Rio Principles published at the Global Home Education Conference in Rio in 2016, which reflect the existing state of international human rights law in relation to issues of home education, which I have attached for your convenience.

Officials of the DBE were invited to attend this international home education conference and it was disappointing that none bothered to attend.  This suggests a lack of sincere interest in home education and protecting the interests of children who pursue education at home.

2.6 Home education is not School-at-Home

“…home education succeeds because it is child-centred. The education is tailored to suit each individual child to ensure mastery and the parents are highly motivated to help their children achieve success in education and in life in general!

For many, public schooling fails for many reasons – its focus is on policies, procedures, administrators, teachers and controlling large groups of children. The needs of the individual are superceded by the needs of the System (my capital), in which many children fail to learn.

While there are ‘islands of excellence’ in the South African school system, the majority of children who are forced to attend schools do not receive adequate education.[6]

Research in the USA has shown that the degree of state control and regulation of homeschooling is not related to academic achievement of home learners. The achievement of home learners in states that are highly regulated is no different from states where there is no regulation.[7]

Classroom pedagogy is not the model that works best in the home education scenario. (One might also question its effectiveness in the school system!)

The school system is designed to facilitate the administration of a system imposed on the masses. It’s a one-size-fits all approach designed to control both teachers and learners.

In contrast with the CAPS system currently implemented in the failing school system, home education is innovative, flexible, responsive to individual learning needs and highly individualised. When a curriculum isn’t serving the needs of a learner, a parent doesn’t have to wait 20 years to update it, she can change it instantly and find a better solution.

Home educators are redefining education and re-establishing the boundaries of work, learning and family life. They are escaping the limitations of the school system and successfully educating their children and equipping them to be economically productive adults, who can be self-supporting in the rapidly changing working milieu of the 21st century.

Instead of trying to force home education to become a home-based replica of the school system, the DBE should be consulting with innovative (home) educators in the private sector to find solutions for the failures of the outdated state school system. I would be happy to make a few recommendations on request.

 

The DBE Task Team wrote:

[Quotations removed. It said that it is not viable to impose a school model on home education which is a fluid, responsive form of education.] [8] [9]

The draft policy on home education has ignored the above. The requirements of the draft policy, as well as the demands of the current school system undermine the provisions of the Constitution to hold each child’s best interests paramount.

The current draft policy will destroy the many benefits that home education offers that mass education can never achieve, such as individualised learning, which is in the best interests of each unique child.

Given the above, I could pick apart the policy clause by clause and object to each point, but all of my objections would be encompassed in the above objection.

It is not my role to rewrite defective policy, nor do I have the time, given the looming deadline for comments. However, as a home educating parent with 20 years experience, a home education advisor for 15 years, a curriculum author and the only commercially published author of two books on home education in South Africa, I would be most willing and enthusiastic to again meet with officials of the DBE.

I would share my intimate knowledge and experience of home educating my own six children, my 20 years of reading and researching this topic that is my passion, as well as sharing the experiences of others in the local homeschooling network in South Africa so that we (home educators and officials of the DBE) can start over, establish the relationship and trust required, enlighten policy makers about home education further and work towards a mutually acceptable and constitutionally legitimate policy on home education.

  1. Conclusion

 The DBE has not given adequate time for meaningful public participation and comment on the draft policy. Home educators need more time to understand the legal implications and possible consequences of the policy on them. It is unreasonable to publish a policy at the busiest time of the year. This does not encourage public participation as prescribed by the Constitution.

 The DBE has ignored the input of the  majority of respected home education stakeholders and only included those in the process who supported their agenda of making home education conform to the model of public schooling and the curriculum requirements set out in the draft policy.

The draft policy pre-empts the passing of the BELA Bill and is evidence of the DBE’s lack of respect for public participation in the process of drafting legislation and policy.

The policy seeks to make home education a replication of school-at-home.

The policy seeks to impose a conceptual straightjacket on a form of education which is flexible, innovative, creative and responsive to needs of each individual learner. It seeks to prescribe rigid outcomes and imposes unreasonable requirements and limitations on home educators.

The provisions of the policy conflict with human rights laws, the Constitution and other applicable legal instruments and violate the rights of children and the responsibilities of their parents protected by these laws.

The DBE should withdraw the policy and rewrite it after meaningful consultation with home education stakeholders, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust, after more officials have studied the available research and laws pertaining to home education and gained an appreciation for this form of education which is outside their immediate frame of reference and previous experience.

I conclude, with the words of the DBE’s own 2015 Discussion Document on Home Education:

[Quotation removed. It stated that a new policy must be based on a good understanding of home education and it must be constitutionally legitimate, acceptable to home educators, practically implementable given limited resources and adaptable in future if necessary.]

Shirley Erwee

Home Education Consultant, Curriculum provider, Home Education Author and Activist

 

References

[1] Discussion Document on Home Education 17/06/2015

[2] Reported by the Pestalozzi Trust, http://pestalozzi.org/web2/en/2016/08/30/and-never-the-twain-shall-meet/, accessed 06/12/2017

[3] Carol Black, A Thousand Rivers, What the Modern World has Forgotten about Children and Learning, http://schoolingtheworld.org/a-thousand-rivers/, accessed 06/12/2017

[4] Discussion Document on Home Education 17/06/2017

[5] Ibid

[6] Shirley Erwee, Homeschooling the Primary Years, Struik Lifestyle, 2015

[7] Dr Brian Ray, What Does the Evidence Say?, Global Home Education Conference, Berlin, November 2012, http://www.ghec2012.org/cms/content/what-does-evidence-say-ray , retrieved 06/12/2017

[8] Discussion Document on Home Education 17/06/2017

[9] Ibid

 

Shirley’s Objections to the BELA Bill

9 November 2017

 

Attention: Adv. TD Rudman

Dear Adv. Rudman

Draft Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill:
 (hereafter referred to as “the BELA Bill” or “the Bill”

 

Introduction and background

I am a parent, home education curriculum author and home education consultant, who has been successfully home educating my 6 children, plus the children of two close relatives, for over 20 years, since 1997.

My eldest child graduated from home with an international school leaving certificate in 2015, started her own businesses at ages 13 and 16 respectively, sold them, then worked overseas in 2017 and was been accepted to study at Stellenbosch University in 2018, but chose to continue working abroad for another year.

My other children are aged 7-17 and are still being home educated.

Three of my children have won national championships in gymnastics and two have represented SA at international competitions. Three of them have or are running home-based businesses. One is coaching at a robotics club run by an NGO and another one coaches gymnastics part time at a local gymnastics club.

Home education enables our family to enjoy healthy relationships and to give each of our children a customised education, with the goal of allowing them to develop their talents and interests, to reach their full potential and to equip them to function in society as self-supporting individuals. They will be able to and are already benefiting their community, rather than being a burden on society.

 

Although I attended meetings about home education with the DBE in 2015 in Pretoria, as a representative for the Pestalozzi Trust, it was disappointing to hear about the draft bill via social media, rather than via direct communication from the DBE as my details are on their list of homeschool stakeholders.

Even more disturbing was the DBE’s unwillingness to extend the due date for submissions as I have not had adequate time to fully study the implications of the proposed laws, to have time to research other laws that are also applicable to education in South Africa. This letter is written under duress to get it submitted in time for the legal deadline on 10 November.

I am objecting specifically to Section 25, the portion of the Bill that pertains to home education and which is intended to replace Article 51 of the SA Schools Act. I have not yet had time to study other portions of the Bill and therefore I may make further submissions hereafter.
I object to the following:

  1. Requirement to apply for registration to receive home education

The Bill says:

  1. (1) A parent of a learner who is of compulsory school going age may apply to the Head of Department for the registration of a learner to receive home education.

 I believe the above is in direct conflict with Article 26 (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

“Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

 

Section 28 (2) of the South African Constitution (hereafter referred to as “the Constitution”) states:

A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.

 

If parents are the primary educators of children, it therefore a parent’s right to choose the form of education that is in the best interests of her children. If she has to apply for permission to exercise this right, then her right to choose home education has been violated.

 

The limits of the role of the state

Article 5 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereafter referred to as “UNCRC”) declares:

States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents or, where applicable, the members of the extended family or community as provided for by local custom, legal guardians or other persons legally responsible for the child, to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the present Convention.

Therefore, the state should respect that parents are the primary educators of children and the state should only step in to provide education or any other social services for children when the parents fail to do so.

The Bill demonstrates the state exceeding the limits of its authority and responsibility and potentially usurping the role of responsible parents.

In Section 28 of the Constitution confirms that children have the right to education, and imposes the responsibility of ensuring that children’s rights are realised, on parents. It also places the responsibility for the child’s right to shelter, basic health care and nutrition upon parents.

Parents are responsible for basic health care and they may choose private health care or use state health care services if they choose. Parents are also primarily responsible for providing adequate shelter and nutrition and the state may only be called upon to ensure that these rights of children are realised, when parents are unable to fulfill these obligations.

Following the same logic, parents have the right to choose to use private educational services and home education, and as such, the right to choose which educational services to use, if they do.

Since the state does not require parents to apply for permission to exercise other parental duties, it is unconstitutional for the state to require parents to apply to register a learner to receive home education.

It could be argued that home education is the default form of education and public schooling should be provided for those children whose parents choose not to take up this responsibility!
Indeed, historically, public schooling for the masses is a relatively recent phenomenon!

I would like to propose that to assist the DBE in their task of ensuring that all children’s rights to receive education are fulfilled, that parents should rather be requested to NOTIFY the DBE that they are home educating their children and following educational programmes and/or activities that are in the best interests of the children, rather than be required to apply for approval to register their children for home education.

 

  1. The Head of Department is given powers to be satisfied or not, based on limited information in an application

The Bill states:

51 (2) The Head of Department must approve the application and register the learner as contemplated in subsection (1) if he or she is satisfied that

(a) education at home and registration as such is in the interests of the learner;

(b) the parent understands, accepts and is equipped to fulfil the responsibility of home education for the learner;

And

51 (7) The Head of Department must cancel a learner’s registration for home education if after enquiry, the Head of Department is satisfied that home education is no longer in the educational interest of the learner.

 

With regard to paragraph 51 (2) (a): Since the Head of Department is not at all acquainted with the child, how it is possible for him or her to know what is in the best interests of the learner? The Head of Department has no knowledge of the personality, history, health, abilities, disabilities, talents, gifts, goals or any other unique information relating to a child and his or her education and it is impossible to convey that depth of knowledge that a parent has about her own child, in an application form. It is therefore impossible for the Head of Department to decide what is in the best interest of the child. It is a violation to allow an official of the DBE to usurp this role of the parent.

With regard to paragraph 51 (2) (b): Since the Head of Department has no knowledge of the parent and his or her personality, ability, education, training, knowledge, life experience, talents, profession or any other unique information about that person, it is impossible for him to know in advance, whether or not the parent is equipped to fulfil the responsibility of home education for the learner or not.

In all other areas of responsibility and duty, such as shelter, nutrition, basic health care, personal safety etc. parents are assumed to be equipped to provide for the needs and best interests of their children and there is no evidence to suggest that the same should not be applicable with respect to the responsibility of providing for their children’s education at home.

In all other areas of responsibility, parents do not have to satisfy anyone that they are equipped to fulfill their obligations. They are assumed to be competent unless proven otherwise, in which case the state will step in to ensure the rights of the child are realised and protected.

Since the Head of Department will have no in-depth knowledge of the both the child and the parent, the requirement for him or her to be satisfied based on a mere application, will not be possible. The decision s/he makes with regards to these criteria is unlikely to be based on sufficient evidence and could easily be said to be based on a whim.

Section 51 (2)(a) and (b) of the Bill should therefore be removed.

Section 51 (7) suggests that if the Head of Department concludes that home education is not in the best interests of the learner that he can cancel the registration. This means that the child may be forced to attend a school which for various reasons may also not be in his or her best interests.

Conditions in many schools in South Africa are currently not in the best interests of any learners and there is no guarantee that the child’s right to education will be fulfilled in a system that is already failing to adequately educate many learners, according to international standards.
Children in South Africa may be going to school, but they are certainly not being educated the way they should be! Every survey testifies to this.[i]

3. The requirement that the proposed education programme must be comparable to the national curriculum

The Bill states:

“51(2)(c) the proposed home education programme is suitable for the learner’s age, grade level, ability and covers the acquisition of content and skills at least comparable to the relevant national curriculum determined by the Minister; and”

 

The national curriculum has never been tested and proved to be in the best interests of any children. It is a programme that divides information into graded levels for uniform delivery en masse to children that are grouped according to age in school classrooms.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Article 29 1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to: (a) The development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;

Since every child is unique and every child’s personality, talents, mental, physical abilities and potential varies, limiting curriculum choices to only those that match the content and skills of the national curriculum is a violation of a child’s right to receive a customised education and a violation of a parents right to choose the form of education in the child’s best interests.

It also seems very contrary to the spirit of the Constitution to give the Head of Department of the DBE the power to prevent children and their parents from accessing, at their own cost, educational systems and services which they believe to be preferable and beneficial for their own needs and their children’s best interests.

Again, I quote Section 28 (2) of the Constitution – A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.

The best interests of the child are of paramount importance, not the desires of the DBE to use a system that is familiar to them to monitor and control the education of home learners.

Since the Head of Department has no knowledge of the individual child for whom the parent is applying for registration for home education, he is not able to decide whether the proposed educational programme is suitable for that child. He has insufficient grounds on which to decide what is the best interests of any child that he does not know intimately in the manner that a parent does!

In addition, this paragraph of the BELA Bill seems to imply that only approved curriculums which follow the CAPS system of the DBE are likely to get approved.

Favouring CAPs as the only curriculum option, in order to more easily fit homeschoolers neatly into the DBE’s administrative system, also goes against fair business practice. This would potentially create a monopoly for government approved providers which is against fair trade and competition and will limit choices and opportunities for home educated learners.

According to the Constitution, Section 16 (1), Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes— (a) freedom of the press and other media; (b) freedom to receive or impart information or ideas; (c) freedom of artistic creativity; and (d) academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.

The requirement that the content of the educational programme must match the content of the national curriculum is a violation of academic freedom and the freedom to receive information and ideas which differ from those contained in the national curriculum.

No curriculum is value neutral and by promoting limited options, such as only CAPS-aligned curriculums, the constitutional freedoms of families would also be unreasonably limited.

Parents therefore should have the right to choose other educational programmes, which they believe to be most suitable for their children’s education. Their constitutionally-protected freedom of choice, according to their philosophies about learning, their values and religion, must be respected and protected.

This paragraph 51(2)(c) should be removed as it violates the rights of parents to choose what is in the best interests of their children and the right to freedom of expression enshrined in the Constitution.

 

4. A “competent assessor” must assess the child every year at the parents’ cost

The Bill states:

 

“51(2)(d)(iii) arrange for the learner’s educational attainment to be assessed annually by a competent assessor, approved by the Head of Department, at the parent ‘s own expense who will apply a standard that is not inferior to the standard expected in a public school according to the learner’s age, grade level and ability; and”

 

Since home educated children should have the right to pursue alternative educational programmes and not only the national curriculum, any form of standardised testing or assessment would not be in the best interests of a child, who is not following the national curriculum.

Standardised testing and assessment may also not be in the best interests of a child who IS following the national curriculum!
There is a growing body of research which shows that testing places unnecessary stress on young children which hinders learning. It also places a burden on parents to teach for the test.

The BELA Bill does not explain the purpose or possible consequences of these assessments. What would happen if a home educated learner were to fail the assessment test?

In the school system, learners may only fail once per phase and must then be progressed each year, regardless of whether they pass or not, until they fail again in the next phase. Is this the standard to be applied to home learners too or would they be discriminated against and forced to place the child in the school system if the child fails?

Does the already cash-strapped DBE have the funds required to pay the salaries and office space of the staff that would be required to process all these assessments?

This requirement also places an unnecessary burden of cost on families, who are already bearing the full cost of their children’s education and thereby saving the state the R12 000 per annum[ii] that it costs the state to have a child attend a public school.

51(2)(d)(iii) should be removed as it violates the rights of parents to choose what is in the best interests of their children and places unnecessary costs on families, which cannot be justified.

 

5. Requirement to register for the Senior Certificate Examination

The Bill says:

 “51(6) A parent of a learner who wishes to continue with home education after the learner has completed grade 9, must make use of the services of a private or independent service provider accredited by Umalusi, established in terms of section 4 of the General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act. 2001 (Act No. 58 of 2001), to register for the Senior Certificate Examination through an independent or private assessment body.”

 

The wording of this paragraph is ambiguous in multiple ways and could easily be misinterpreted to the detriment of home educated learners who choose NOT to write the National Senior Certificate examination.

Once again I refer to the following:

Section 28 of the South African Constitution (hereafter referred to as “the Constitution”) deals with children’s rights. Of importance is section 28 (2), which states:

(2) A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.

and

Article 26 (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which South Africa has ratified, states:

“Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

 

At face value, section 25 (6) of the BELA Bill appears to violate the right of parents to choose the form of education that may be in their children’s best interests as it seems to limit the options to only one, namely, the National Senior Certificate.

Parents have the right to choose the education that is in the best interests of their child. Therefore, it should be clear that the right to choose international qualifications as an alternative to a South African matric should be possible and welcomed.

Since schooling is not compulsory after grade 9 or from age 16 onwards, there should be no restrictions placed on the educational options of children beyond this age and grade.

The cost of using independent service providers accredited by Umalusi is prohibitive to many families who choose home education.
Further, giving such service providers a monopoly, does not encourage a fair trade or fair market price for their products and services, instead it facilitates collusion and price setting.

If parents have the right to choose home education and self-study for children in grades 1-9, which is their right, then likewise, they should continue to have this same freedom in grades 10-12. Self-study at home should be allowed.

This requirement violates the right to freedom of choice and access to information and academic freedom

According to the Constitution, Section 16 (1), Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes— (a) freedom of the press and other media; (b) freedom to receive or impart information or ideas; (c) freedom of artistic creativity; and (d) academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.

The Constitution of South Africa protects the freedom of individuals with respect to belief and opinion, freedom of movement, professional choice and access to information etc.

Any proposed law that would limit any of the above choices, must be found to be just and reasonable, and there seems to be no just reason to limit an individual’s choice of grade 12 qualification to only the option of the National Senior Certificate. International qualifications may facilitate freedom of movement of individuals seeking opportunities in other countries.

Requiring families who choose home education for grades 10 to 12 to use only the National Senior Certificate as their school leaving qualification is a violation of the right to access other information and ideas and academic freedom.

It is also a violation of the right to equality enshrined in section 9 of the Constitution. If children at schools have the option to pursue international qualifications, then home educated learners should have equal opportunity.

For the above reasons, this paragraph should be removed.

  1. Appeal processes may be detrimental to children’s education

51 (8) The Head of Department may not cancel the registration of a learner for home education before- (a) informing the parent of his or her intention so to act and the reasons therefor; (b)granting the parent a reasonable opportunity to make representations to him or her relating to such intention; and (c) giving due consideration to any such representations received.

(9) A learner or the parent of a learner may appeal to the Member of the Executive Council, within 14 days of receiving notice, if a Head of Department- (a) declines the application to register for home education; or cancels a learner’s registration for home education

The legal procedures described above could be lengthy and administratively intensive and could jeopardise the best interests of a child. If a child is experiencing trauma of any kind in a school situation, for example, emotional, psychological trauma, labelling, bullying or prejudice of any kind, it could be harmful to leave a child in that situation while these processes are being followed.

A parent also may not have had time to research options such as the educational programme that will be followed and this could jeopardise the requirements to be met in order to get approval.

There are possibly many other impractical consequences of the ‘red tape’ and legal processes which might not be in the child’s best interests and may cause stress and trauma to both parents and children alike.

The time constraint for meeting the deadline for the submission of this letter does not allow me to fully consider all the possible scenarios that there could be, but I would like to make mention that there are issues here regarding the length of time for applications, cancellations and appeals in Sections 51 (1), (8) and (9) that need to be reconsidered.

7. Prosecution

In addition, Clause 2 (a) of the Bill, which deals with the amendment to Section 3 (6) of SASA (p.50) states that a home educating parent may now be jailed for 6 years.

“3(6)(a) any parent who without just cause and after a written notice from the Head of Department, fails to comply with subsection (1), is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six [months] years, or to both such fine and such imprisonment; or”

 

In blunt language, this paragraph is complete “overkill”.

6 years is the jail sentence that Oscar Pistorius received when he was convicted of murder!

For the reasons set out in this letter above, it is highly likely that many home educating parents will find that it is not in the best interests of their children to hand over their responsibility to choose the form of education for their children to the Head of Department, by applying to register for home education.

Given the current state of education in South Africa, parents have very little confidence in the DBE to act in their children’s best interests. Evidence of this is the growing number of private schools and the huge growth in civil education (i.e. cottage schools and private learning centres) as well as the growth in the home education movement.

For more than 20 years, families in South Africa have been successfully home educating their children with very little state interference or oversight. Parents who choose home education are generally responsible, proactive, caring, involved parents who have their children’s best interests at heart and are willing to make sacrifices to pursue home education.

The threat of harsh punishment and the fear of the trauma of prosecution and the potential consequences, is not going to improve the quality of home education. On the contrary, there is a greater risk that this will result in parents making choices which they believe are more likely to earn the approval of the Head of Department, rather than choosing what is in the best interests of their children, which is what the Constitution dictates is paramount!
This paragraph needs to be removed. The Children’s Act already provides mechanisms for dealing with educational and other forms of neglect or abuse of children. There is no need for the SA Schools act to impose further laws or punishments to deal with this.
Except in cases of severe neglect, keeping families together is usually always in the best interests of children! Jail time for parents should not even be mentioned.


This paragraph needs serious revision.

 

Conclusion

Since home education representatives and stake-holders were not consulted in the drafting of this Bill, I believe that the sections pertaining to home education do not respect or protect the constitutional rights of parents and the freedom that the Constitution affords them.

The Bill violates my right as a parent to choose the form of education that is in my children’s best interests. At birth, and when I registered my children with the department of home affairs and declared that I am their parent, I undertook to fulfil my duty to provide my children with shelter, nutrition, basic health care and education, which are among their Constitutional rights. It is not in their best interests for me or other home educating parents to give this responsibility to any other person, while we are capable of and willing to fulfil this responsibility.

The requirements for registration for home education set out by the Bill are impractical given the vast range of values, philosophies, beliefs and practices of home educating families. They are unreasonably restrictive and potentially harmful to the best interests of the majority of children whose parents choose home education. They violate the rights and the freedoms that the Constitution and other international bodies of law such as the UNCRC and Universal Declaration of Human Rights protects:

 

  • Section 28 (2) of the South African Constitution states:

A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.

 

  • Article 26 (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which South Africa has ratified, states:

“Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

 

  • Article 5 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) declares:

States Parties shall respect the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents
The Constitution declares that the best interests of my children are paramount and the UNCRC confirms that it is my prior right to choose the kind of education that my children shall be given and that state parties shall respect the responsibilities and duties of parents and not attempt to usurp them.

As it stands, Section 25 of the BELA Bill  which deals with the Substitution of section 51 of the SA Schools Act 84 of 1996, pertaining to home education, violates all the above provisions and should therefore be scrapped in its entirety until the DBE consults properly with home educators and can formulate provisions which accommodate and respect the rights and responsibilities of all parents and the freedoms of all citizens provided for in the Constitution.

 

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Yours sincerely

 

Shirley Erwee

 

References

[i] Nic Spaull, Education in SA: A tale of two systems, 31 August 2012, http://www.politicsweb.co.za/politicsweb/view/politicsweb/en/page71619?oid=323272&sn=Detail, accessed 9 November 2017

[ii] Ibid

Thoughts on the BELA Bill from the Heart of a Homeschool Mom

 

mother-and-daughter-2629795_960_720From the heart of a Homeschool mom….

Shared with permission from the author, Michelle Myburgh

I have been trying to wrap my head around the whole concept of the BELA bill and how it will implicate my rights as a mother, the lives of my children as well as that of friends and family who have kids going to mainstream schools. A lot of these family members and friends aren’t even aware of the proposed bill and how our education system is failing to really put the needs of our children and future generations FIRST! Since when should political views, control and money surpass the needs of proper education despite of WHO the “educators” are?

[Edit – Homeschoolers can learn more about how this proposed bill may afftect them at Getting to know BELA]

I am a mother of 3 beautiful children and we have been home educating them for the past 17 months. Although this is still a short time, we have seen such a great transformation in each one of them. At home, we get to learn at our own pace. Each child is different, and we know life is not a race neither is education. We get to take our time on certain subjects/problems not yet fully mastered and on the other hand we get thrive in others advancing to higher levels much faster. Not being restricted to one boxed curriculum, we get to use a wide range of curricula from all over the world. Using different methods, different tools and creating a love for learning. My kids love the freedom to move, to get their hands dirty and to learn from life too.

To say that home-schooling families do not want their children to mix and socialise with the broader society, could not be further from the truth. There is a much bigger divide in the public-school sector, where clicks are formed, bullying and teachers breaking them down. Have you taken the time to sit back and think how things have changed since you were in school? Back then, kids weren’t permanently medicated. The suicide rate of school going children was at a minimum if not unheard of…. Ask yourself why? The system is failing, it is failing our children.

Our children, socialize with all, no matter which age, colour or language. The truth is, our kids see friends in everyone. Our kids show the greatest form of compassion to the elderly, they are gentle and loving to kids younger than them, can keep up in well-rounded conversation with their peers as well as adults. Most of all, our kids can still be kids. I would like to invite you to come spend the afternoon with us, where we meet for weekly socials or exciting field trips. You will definitely be blown away 😊

They are not being molded by a system to jump through hoops and just obey orders. My kids get to enjoy quality education at home. They get to spread their wings and fly. As a family we encourage each other, we love, and we give thanks. My children know that it is okay to make mistakes because there are always important lessons to learn in the way we get back up and try again. My almost 5-year-old is creative, inquisitive, bold and takes risks without the fear of failing, why should I allow a system to take that away from her. Imagine what it would be like if we all still had those amazing characteristics!

Should the BELA Bill be passed unchanged it will violate my right as a person, as a mother, it will violate the right of my children to receive the BEST education they deserve. Home education is not a form of abuse to the system, but my God given right as a parent.

Being a Christian, it is my responsibility to teach my children Christian values, guiding them on a path with God and at home we get to enjoy God’s grace daily. I am preparing my kids for life by being involved, by guiding and teaching them. A mother is a child’s first teacher, it is she that taught her children to crawl, walk, talk and eat by themselves. She teaches them love and compassions. Our kids do NOT belong to the government nor the education system. They do not even belong to us, they belong to God. God has chosen each parent for each child, to love them, guide them and protect them. He has chosen us as parents to raise them according to His will. As a mom, this is my path and one I will not change.

I will not run, I will not fight, but I will let my voice be heard!

A little piece of my heart,
Michelle Myburgh


Call to Action from the Pestalozzi Trust, the homeschool legal defence association

Please read the information provided at Getting to Know BELA and then make a submission:

Choose a method to make a submission: 

  • Make a submission now, if you are used to making submissions to government or feel comfortable that you do not need help and have studied the amendment Bill please go ahead and make your submission right now. Send it to Adv Rudman at [rudman.d@dbe.gov.za]. Bcc a copy to [homeschoolfreedom1996@gmail.com], this will allow the Pestalozzi Trust to keep track of the submissions. AND/OR:
  • Wait for the Trust’s guidelines and info pack. Over the week-end  [of 4-5 November](Yes, we are working around the clock) the Trust will release an info pack and guidelines for writing a submission. This will give you all you need to make an informed initial submission on the Bill. This will be released onto the Pestalozzi Trust and BELA Bill Facebook pages as well as the tuisonderwys yahoo group. So please visit there. We will also send the guidelines and info pack to Trust members. AND/OR:
  • Make an anonymous submission. One of the major concessions we were able to negotiate is that the DBE will accept anonymous submissions if handled through a legal process developed by the Trust. Your details will be completely hidden from the DBE officials. This process will be managed by the Trust’s lawyers. To keep the administrative burden and costs as low as possible we will be asking you to use a pre-determined format. The details of the process and guidelines will be sent to you with the info pack.

Take Action for Homeschool Freedom in South Africa

UPDATE 13 NOVEMBER 2017

The Pestalozzi Trust has urged all home educators to send letter of objection to the BELA Bill.

Since insufficient time for public consultation was given, it is important for there to be a large body of evidence ( letters of objection) as proof of the lack of consultation and proof of the public’s outcry against this draft bill. If the Bill gets steamrollered through Parliament, there will need to be a court case and this evidence will be vital for a successful outcome in that instance.

To assist home educators with drafting letters of submission, the Pestalozzi Trust has published the following documents and BELA Bill Submission Guidelines:

  1. BELA FACT SHEET/ FEITEBLAD
  2. Step-by-Step Guide to Make A BELA Bill Submission
  3. Stap-vir-stap-gids Hoe om ‘n voorlegging oor die BELA Bill te skryf
  4. Submission Letter Individuals Template
  5. Summary Sheet

You can also find more information and the excerpt from the BELA Bill pertaining to home education HERE (opens in a new tab)

Letters can be emailed to Adv. Rudman at the DBE at Rudman.D@dbe.gov.za

Please send a BCC copy to the Pestalozzi Trust at this email address:  homeschoolfreedom1996@gmail.com


 

UPDATE 25 October 2017

Adv Rudman’s office has been inundated with emails requesting an extension and he has asked the public to stop emailing.

He will make an announcement on Friday 27 October regarding the possibility of extending the closing date for comments.

Request to join the BELA BILL group on Facebook to stay up to date on this matter.


 

You urgently need to respond to the call to be proactive in the letter which follows, which was published by the Pestalozzi Trust, the homeschool legal defence association in South Africa.

Please encourage family members and friends, who support the right of parents to choose the form of education that is in the best interests of their children, to also take action.

23 October 2017


 

Dear Educator and/or Member of the Pestalozzi Trust

URGENT: PLEASE ASK FOR AN EXTENSION OF TIME TO COMMENT ON HOME ED LAW

I would like to thank all of you for your suggestions and pledges of support over the last few days. I also know that many of you are for good reason very eager to join the fight for our rights and your families. I also appreciate your patience, and allow me to assure you that we have been working feverishly in the background getting ready to respond.

SUMMARY: The Department of  Basic Education “DBE” has published the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill for public comment (due by 10 November 2017).  Section 2 on ‘compulsory school attendance’ and Section 25 in particular on ‘registration for home education’, would seriously restrict your freedom and add costs to you as a home educator. Given that it is now exam time followed by the festive season, that we were poorly consulted before, and that the proposals have such serious implications for home educators that we need to time to study, and consult with other and our legal representatives, we have written to the DBE to ask for an extension to comment  period until the 15th February 2018.  Please could you urgently write a letter preferably in your own words to Adv Rudman at rudman.d@dbe.gov.za to ask for more time and Bcc a copy to homeschoolfreedom1996@gmail.com.

Read our motivation for more time at 2017 Letter from Pestalozzi Trust to Dept of Basic Education
Please also read the full Bill at https://www.gov.za/sites/default/files/41178_gon1101.pdf

We [the Pestalozzi Trust] will be contacting you again next week to discuss how the bill will affect you.

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO RIGHT NOW

The first battle in our fight is to obtain an extension to the closing date for the public comment on the draft Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill. On the 18th of October 2017, the Pestalozzi Trust presented the attached request to the office of Adv. Rudman at the Department of Basic Education. We spoke to Adv. Rudman, and he acknowledged receipt of the letter from the Pestalozzi Trust.

You will see from the request that home educators have been very significantly prejudiced by the lack of consultation.

We now need your support

We now need your support to ensure that this request is successful.

HOW TO MAKE SURE YOUR VOICE IS HEARD

(a) Send a letter
You can do this in the following way:

1. You can copy, amend and sign a form letter that we have drafted and submit it to the DBE. Please only use this as your second option and if you really feel you can’t write a personalized letter. Find it attached as: Extension letter individuals form letter.docx [This is second best.]
2. Draw up your own letter. You can look at the template and the sample letter, and then use these as a basis to draw up your own request. Find them attached as: Extension Letter Individuals template.docx and Extension letter individuals sample.docx

We understand that everyone will not be comfortable with the second option, but drafting a personalized request will have the most impact. Please BCC the letter to homeschoolfreedom1996@gmail.com, which is the e-mail address we have created for the BELABill campaign. This allows the Trust to keep a record of the actual requests for extension. Thank you!

As a member of the public you don’t need to sound like an organization or format your response like an organization, although it is best to use the same basic format.

(b) Call Adv Rudman to confirm receipt
Once you have submitted your request for an extension please call Adv. Rudman on (012) 3573856 to confirm they have received your request. Take the opportunity to ask for the extension again. Please keep calling until you get a response.

(c) Tweet
As soon as you have done that, please tweet about your experience using #BELAbill, #homeschoolfreedom, #nocommentduringexams

(d) Please also post to the Pestalozzi Trust Facebook page

We understand that some of you feel intimidated and do not want to leave details with the DBE. That is very understandable. You will see that we have raised this with the DBE. There is no reason for those asking for extensions of time to mention that you are a home schooler.  So if you are concerned then don’t mention you are a home schooler.
If you do not want to be identified please call Adv. Rudman (turn off you caller ID) explain your fears. Then e-mail us at the Trust and tell us that you called. We want to keep track of how many people have called the DBE. This will strengthen our case.

Regards,

Karin van Oostrum
(Executive Officer: Pestalozzi Trust)

Pestalozzi Trust (IT6377/98)
die regsfonds vir tuisonderwys en burgerlike onderwys
the legal defence fund for home and civil education