The banning of holy assemblies and biblical lessons at government schools has resulted in thousands of parents turning to homeschooling.
Nearly 100,000 children are currently homeschooled. Parents view homeschooling as an essential platform to teach and embed Godly ethical values in their children’s lives. Some of the other reasons cited for homeschooling are: quality education, creating a strong positive bond between parents and children and accommodating those with special needs. Safety considerations and financial constraints are part of the reasons home education has expanded.
Additionally, parents do not want to expose their children to the physical and psychological dangers they are exposed to at traditional schools. These include; bullying, peer pressure, harassment, drugs, physical assault and rape.
Homeschooling was legalised two years after the birth of democracy in 1994. The legalisation, was enforced after the arrest and incarceration of Andre and Bokkie Meintjes, a couple that had decided to homeschool their children. The persecutions and injustices meted out to parents, resulted in the formation of the Association for homeschooling and intervention from a US-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and homeschoolers from the USA. Subsequently, the Meintjes were released from jail.
In 1998, the Pestalozzi Trust was established by a “group of Christians to protect the rights and freedom of all families to educate their children at home according to their own religious and or philosophical persuasions, pedagogical convictions and cultural traditions”.
Nevertheless, 20 years later, it seems parents are not enjoying the right and freedom they have fought for to educate their children freely without interferences from the Department of Education. Towards the end of 2017, the department introduced a proposed draft policy, which, among other things, requires parents to apply to the HOD for the registration of their children to be educated at home.
Part of the requirement is for parents to conform to what the department deems to be: “reasonable conditions set by the HOD, to keep a record of attendance and a suitable timetable for a learner, understand the curriculum, provide and facilitate education in a manner that is consistent with the law.” Most parents are not excited about the contents of the policy, and are set to oppose it in their responses to the department. Some of their concerns were raised on different homeschooling websites. Parents are required to submit their comments about the draft policy to the department by January 31.
Karin van Oostrum from the Pestalozzi Trust said: “The policy is based on sound principles, but the practical provisions are unworkable and in fact violate the very principles the Department of Basic Education (DBE) articulates in the policy document itself. We are ready and willing to work with the DBE to develop a workable framework based on those sound principles.”
One parent, Adriette Schoeman, posted on the Pestalozzi Trust website: “As a concerned parent about my child’s education, I put my child’s education as a high priority and my right as a parent is to educate her the way I want. Nobody can tell me what to and how to educate my child”.
A parent known only as A. Bullock wrote: “I have two daughters in Grade 5 & 7 they are happy at home and homeschooling them has made a positive impact on them as young children. They have improved in languages and maths because when they don’t understand a concept we take our time. My one daughter experienced bullying at the tender age of 9 years old and this is one of the reasons I have decided to take the responsibility as a parent for my children’s education seriously.”
There are thousands of children who are homeschooled and most parents have opted for the USA and Cambridge education syllabus for them, as opposed to the South African education system.
Hendra said: “Parents have the Constitutional Right to choose the curriculum that best suits the needs of their children. I cannot see how imposing a broken system on anyone will be in the best interest of children. We are using a curriculum that is listed as one of the top in the world and you want to force us, parents, to use one that is one of the worst in the world. In my opinion, your actions are what should be looked at as damaging to kids, as forcing something that clearly isn’t working on families who chose a better system is going backward not improving things.”
In response to Inside Education’s media enquiry, spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education (DBE), Troy Martens said:
“Basic education is a right enshrined in the constitution, we need to ensure that if children are being kept out of school that they are in fact getting a reputable education at home. This is the right of every child and it is the responsibility of the Department to ensure this happens. The policy makes provisions for us to monitor if this is indeed taking place.”
Chairman and Treasurer for the Pestalozzi Trust and former chairman for the Association for homeschooling in SA, Bouwe van der Eems says there are no accurate statistics for homeschooling. According to the 2012 census, 57000 children were homeschooling back then, and Van der Eems said: “If an average growth of 10% per annum is assumed, this number should be around 100000 in 2017.”
“The problem is that, the National Curriculum did not only remove Christianity, but also replaced Christianity with multi-faith religions. This was one of the main objections from homeschooling parents, private schools, school boards and various religious organisations, when the National Curriculum was introduced in 2002,” said Van der Eems.
He said there were numerous incidents where parents were shocked by the moral values promoted in the prescribed CAPS curriculum books, chosen by homeschool curriculum providers. Those types of incidents motivated homeschooling parents to choose curriculums that did not promote values that conflict with their Christian values.
However, Martens said: “Perhaps there are the occasional isolated incidents, but that statement is ridiculously untrue”.
Van der Eems said many parents chose home education for reasons related to moral values and to avoid bullying, and if it was important for parents to protect their children from the morality that was prevalent in schools, then home education most was certainly a good choice for such parents.
“Public schools will teach what the government or the teacher has on the agenda. This may not be consistent with your family values. To most families who choose homeschooling, the values their children would be taught in a public school are not acceptable. One of the biggest homeschooling benefits is that your children’s value system is learned at home not from peers, not from special interests, and not determined by the government,” said Van der Eems.
He said parents thought it would be confusing for their children to learn one religion at home and another at school.
“Public schools do not offer religious instruction for individuals who want to instil those values unto their children as part of daily instruction. Many Christian parents believe that it is their responsibility to teach God’s Word daily, not occasionally, and more and more public schools teachings are in direct contrast to Christian values,” says Van der Eems.
Martens said it was the responsibility of all parents whether they were in the public, private system or home schooling to teach their children morals and values.
“This is not something that should be outsourced to schools. They should come to school with good morals and values from home,” said Martens.
Martens claimed that: “Religious practice is allowed at schools, but it is not taught as a subject. Learners are welcome do their religious education in their spare time. We are a secular society and freedom of religion is a right enshrined in the constitution, therefore we cannot force religious education on learners.”
In an article titled, “Reasons for homeschooling” founders of South African Home-school Curriculum, Shirley Erwee and Wendy Young explained that while there were many parents who believed schools were doing an excellent job with their children, there was an equal number of parents who find that a school failed their child for one reason or another.
“Failed, does not refer to a pass mark for a grade but rather that they have failed to realise that each child is an individual or that each particular child learns differently to others, or even that the child has been bullied by peers. But in classes of 35 to 40 children, how can a teacher cater for each child,” they said in the article.
Parents believe they can offer quality education to their children at an affordable fee through homeschooling.
“Because home education does not have all the overheads that are associated with schools such as buildings, transport, clothing etc, it offers much better value for money. Children get more education for the same amount of money,” said Van der Eems.
He said homeschooling was also beneficial for children with special needs. Those who learned quickly could learn at a pace fast enough for them, while those who needed more time could also have a suitable pace set for them.
Parents could adjust schedules around work and do what they wanted to do with their children. The arrangement also worked well for parents who were working from home or who travelled a lot. Van der Eems said, “Home education allows parents to work their careers to the fullest while being able to educate their children and being able to travel when they need and want to.”
South African Homeschool Curriculum said home education offered parents the chance to hone their child’s gifting and talents and then raised them in their weaker areas to an acceptable standard. Another explanation was that it allowed parents to interact on a deeper heart level where their children’s characters could be moulded as they spent time together in the home environment.
“While there are definitely parents out there who cannot wait to get their kids into school and out of their hair, there are many who homeschool for the very opposite reason: they genuinely like spending time with their kids. They like getting to know them, learning with them and just being around them. Many families find that home education contributes to helping them find time to foster loving ties between all family members. Teens seem to benefit enormously from this interaction, and rebellious, destructive behaviour often begins to diminish soon after homeschooling begins,” said Van der Eems.
The removal of children from traditional schools was also motivated by health reasons, because it emerged that some are “increasingly encouraged to make use of ADHD drugs” in order to achieve better results said Van der Eems. Parents who were concerned about the adverse effect of the ADHD drugs, therefore chose to remove their children from traditional schools to avoid such adverse effects.