The freedom of home education is currently being threatened by proposed changes to the SA Schools Act (BELA Bill) and a new policy on home education published in 2018. Click here for an article that provides an overview of the reasons why the planned regulatory changes of the South African government is of concern to the home education movement.
There are however a number of things that homeschooling parents can do to resist these changes and retain their liberty to choose the education that is in the best interest of their children, as opposed to the state that attempts to limit these liberties and promote the interests of the state.
Government generally engages with the public through representative organizations, such as associations. Only when proposed policy or law is published for public comment does government consider inputs from individuals. An association is an organization where members of a specific interest group elect an executive committee during an annual general meeting. This committee can then engage with government or the media to represent its members. Click here for more information on why associations are important and how you can establish one.
Homeschool Associations and the Pestalozzi Trust occasionally request homeschooling parents to write letters to government or sign petitions, in order to put pressure on government to listen to the objections of the public. Because government is legally obliged to consider each letter received as part of a public participation process, a letter-writing campaign can cause significant delays in the legislative process. It was thanks to the hundreds of letters from home educators that the introduction of the BELA Bill could not be handled by the fifth parliament. It will have to be handled by the sixth parliament, which might look totally different. However, even if government ignores the letters from the public, this can be used at a later stage in court to provide evidence that a public participation process followed in a legislative process was flawed.
The home education movement is very diverse, with a large diversity of views on how home education should be practiced and regulated. Something that is perfectly reasonable to one might be an infringement of a fundamental human right to another or against the religious convictions of another and can cause conflict between families and the state in the future. It is important that the home education movement prepares for engaging with government on the BELA Bill in a unified and well-considered manner. If this is not done, government might choose to only engage with those that are closest aligned to the ideology of the state, and draft law that infringes on the rights of many members of the movement, whilst claiming that they consulted with the movement.
During the meetings with the Department of Basic Education in 2014/15, all associations agreed on a set of principles outlining how home education could be regulated without infringing on the rights of parents. Click here to read the Consensus of 2015.
In 2020, the Liberty in Learning Coalition was established to unify stakeholders to work together for greater freedom in education.
When BELA Bill is submitted by parliament the members of parliament (MP's) will vote on this bill. Home educators can approach MP's through the constituency offices and explain to them how home education works and what the negative effects of the BELA Bill will be. This might make MP's less inclined to support BELA Bill. Click here for an article that explains how to approach MP's through the constituency offices.
Parliament might decide to have public hearings about the BELA Bill. It is important that the voices of homeschooling parents are heard in these public meetings. Click here for a report on such a public hearing that also provides some guidelines on how to present your case at these meetings.
Many homeschooling parents find it intimidating to engage with media and government officials to represent their constituency. It is for this reason that the Pestalozzi Trust has established the ambassador programme to coach and support homeschool leaders to interact with media and government. Once an association was established, its leadership can join the ambassador programme and take the responsibility to represent their constituency in public if and as they are ready.
Home education is the oldest form of child education. It honours and represents a parent's preference or wish to facilitate the education of their children themselves. Home education encompasses exposure of the learner to the knowledge, skills and values required by an active community member and citizen of the modern world and for admission to further education, higher education or employment.
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