Dear Fellow Home Educators,
The handling of Home Education by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED)
Cape Home Educators (CHE) have written to the Minister of Basic Education in the Western Cape, minister Debbie Schäfer, regarding the handling of Home Education provisions in the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill by the WCED.
In 2014 the WCED published a policy that would have severely restricted the freedom of home education. When it was published for public comment, home educators criticised the policy. Since the WCED had not consulted home educators, the MEC for Education, Donald Grant, withdrew the policy within 3 weeks.
It is concerning that since the WCED withdrew its policy on home education in 2014, the WCED did not engage with home educators to address their concerns but assisted the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to draft the home education provisions in the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill and the Policy on Home Education (PHE) without consultation.
When the BELA Bill and the PHE was published for comments in 2017, all the restrictive provisions of the WCED policy were adopted by BELA Bill, the PHE or both. Some provisions were adopted verbatim.
In this letter we call on the minister to start engaging with the home education movement before this bill is tabled at a Council of Education Ministers (CEM) meeting.
Read the letter here:
Read the 2014 draft policy here:
A call for action: Join our campaign
In our attempt to stop the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill from becoming law, it is imperative that we engage with government at every opportunity.
According to the National Education Policy Act (NEPA) the Minister must first consult with the Council of Education Ministers (CEM) before introducing new legislation in parliament. This council consists of the provincial education ministers and the national education minister.
CEM meetings are held quarterly, and we believe that the BELA Bill will be discussed at the next CEM meeting. The ministers have to be consulted and have to prove that they acted rationally and had all the relevant information to make decisions.
Therefore, CHE invites Home Educators to join our campaign to write to the minister to ensure that they consult with home educators and are made aware of the problems and concerns with regard to Home Education and that it would be reckless to approve a bill with such flaws.
Home Educators and Home Education Associations partook in various public participation campaigns to highlight our concerns with the BELA Bill. In general Home Educators experienced that these were mere tick box exercises on the part of the DBE, that our concerns were ignored. Regardless the fact that there are many problems with the BELA Bill, there are also a number of problems with how the bill is being prepared for tabling in parliament:
1. The Pestalozzi Trust has provided two legal opinions to the DBE that set out that home visits infringe on the right to privacy. These concerns haven’t been addressed.
2. The Bill was drafted without any basis in research. For example, there is no credible research on the number of home learners. How can the impact of the BELA Bill be assessed if there are no accurate statistics on something as basic as the number of home learners in South Africa?
3. The Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA) has not considered the budgetary impact of the bill on parents and provinces. The costs associated with such assessments could potentially run into the tens of millions of Rands. South Africa can ill afford another wasteful expenditure.
Key procedural issues to focus on when writing to the MEC include:
1. Request the MEC to meet with home education associations, interest groups, parents and experts from their respective provinces prior to discussing the Bill in CEM and hear their concerns.
2. The home-education provisions will have social and economic impacts on the province. Ask if the provincial education department has quantified these and to share these evaluations with the organisations so that they can provide input.
3. Request that the provincial education minister prepare for the CEM by engaging with organizations like the Pestalozzi Trust and Liberty in Learning members, like CHE, thatcan provide research-based advice on the socio-economic impact of the bill in the province.
4. Request they place these concerns before the other members of CEM.
What can home educators do? Write to your Member of Executive Council (MEC) and demand that they listen to Home Educators
The Western Cape Provincial School Education Act of 1997 (Act 12 of 1997) provides that the requirements and conditions for the registration of a learner for education at home shall be as prescribed.
Read the Western Cape Provincial school education act here:
Issues that you can raise with the Western Cape MEC:
1. Why is there not a home educator in the Education Council?
2. Who should advise the minister on home education matters?
3. In Chapter 3: Establishment and maintenance of public schools, S12(2)(f), a “home” is defined as a type of school and will be deemed to one of 6 types of schools after a certain date. What type of school is “home” deemed to be?
In your letter to the minister, you could describe the following points:
– How long you have been home educating and how it has impacted your family.
– That you are concerned that the BELA Bill will have an impact on your family for the following reasons:
1. Education officials with whom you have no relationship will invade the privacy of your home.
2. The home education provisions in the BELA Bill have ignored research on home education that was presented to the department in 2014/15.
3. The home education provisions in the BELA Bill could make home education unaffordable to your family.
Call on the provincial minister to do the following:
1. Engage with the CHE association and with members of the Liberty in Learning Coalition.
2. Engage with the Pestalozzi Trust to share the research that was done and the legal opinion on the home visit provision.
3. Do not support the home education provisions in the BELA Bill at CEM until you have met with home educators in the Western Cape and consulted with them.
4. As a matter of urgency, ensure that home educators are represented on the Education Council of the Western Cape.
In accordance with administrative law, ministers have to be consulted and have to prove that they acted rationally and had all the necessary information to make their decisions. We need to make sure that they are made aware of the problems experienced by home educators. They need to answer whether the provisions are constitutionally sound. Even if they ignore our plea, we will have evidence for a legal case, that we partook at every chance we could to highlight our concerns. We must focus on procedural issues, how a law is passed, inform the CEM that they need to go back to the drawing board and make a good law, informed in consultation with home educators. Demand that they follow procedure, engage with them and provide background on Home Education and the effect the Bill will have on you.
As a result of the Pandemic, the conditions under which the Bill was proposed no longer exist and work needs to be done to understand the new environment. Home education enables many families to realise the right to education.
Write to the Western Cape MEC, Ms Debbie Schaefer
Personal Assistant to MEC: Audrey Frazenburg
Postal Address: Private Bag X9161, Cape Town 8000
Tel: 021 483 6574, Fax: 086 441 9431
We encourage you to join and support the associations and special interest groups that work with the Pestalozzi Trust in the Liberty in Learning Coalition.
When sending your letter please BCC firstname.lastname@example.org so that the Trust can keep track of how many letters have been sent.
Cape Home Educators