The freedom to educate our children


Across the country many learners have not yet been placed in a school. One of the reasons for this is the dire shortage of schools. In a seminar by Prof Jan de Groof in October 2019 on SDG4 (Sustainable Development Goals pertaining to education) he mentioned that this is a worldwide problem and one that will not be remedied in the near or even far future. The time has come to consider and support alternatives to school attendance.

For the past 20 years home education families in South Africa have prospered and proven that this alternative approach to education is successful in equipping children for the future. Home educated learners have attained higher education qualifications, started their own enterprises or are gainfully employed. They are well-educated adults that are well-adjusted, resilient, and tolerant of differing viewpoints.

Home education families currently have the freedom to educate their children according to the philosophy and pedagogy of home education, but this freedom and associated success of home education are being threatened by the regulations proposed in the BELA Bill.

The proposed regulations of section 51 presume that parents who opt to home educate their children are negligent, uncaring and incompetent of raising and educating a child. We must convince a bureaucrat (the Head of Department) that we are acting in the best interest of our children. Unlike those under suspicion of corruption, rape, and murder home education parents are presumed guilty until proven innocent.

Any education programme should meet the child’s basic learning needs, such as literacy, oral expression, numeracy, and problem solving and the basic learning content such as knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes according to the child’s abilities and in accordance with the family’s religion, beliefs, and values. The past 20 years have proven that home education, with its variety of approaches and curricula (or lack thereof), has achieved exactly this.

The bill requires that children undergo annual assessment by a competent assessor. This is supposedly so that the DBE can support the parent by pointing out where a child struggles and need support. The home education parent is involved daily in the education of the child. She knows where the child struggles and will provide (or seek) the necessary support. The parent does not require the costly services of an assessor to point this out.

The DBE falsely proclaims that home education is for the rich. Home education can be expensive, but in most cases, it is equivalent to or cheaper than attending a good public school. Should BELA bill become law it will make home education unaffordable for most families and they will not be able to comply with the regulations. In addition, the DBE will be acting in direct conflict with SDG 4.1 which states that by 2030 all girls and boys are to complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.

The requirements re. content and assessment serve the best interest of the DBE, not that of the child. It makes it easy for the DBE to obtain measurable outcomes by comparing apples with apples, but our children aren’t fruit and one size does not fit all. Learning is not the memorisation of facts to pass a grade or assessment. There are other means of measuring the education received and of ensuring that learning is happening. (Bear in mind that article 51 is applicable to children of compulsory school going age.)

Section 51(14) states that the minister may make regulations relating to the registration and administration of home education. This is a truly concerning statement. Should the minister act on this section, this arbitrary law-making will be a violation of the foundations of constitutional democracy and the rule of law. It amounts to an abuse of power. It provides no stability and trust in the law (or lawmakers).

Home educators remain hopeful that through consultation, the DBE and government will put forth a law that ensures liberty in learning, serves the best interest of the child, protects the rights of the parent and assists government in meeting the UNESCO requirements. Especially as parents’ main concern is with providing a better future for their children.

Anelle Burger is the Spokesperson of the Cape Home Educators.