BELA Bill Comments Submitted

Cape Home Educators believe in active citizenry and participation in the democratic processes. We have written and submitted our comments on the BELA Bill. Our comments are based on the results of a recent survey we conducted among home educators in the Western Cape and research done by LearnFree. It is also the result of our discussions with the Western Cape Education Department, and most importantly conversations we had with home education families.

We share your concerns about the impact the BELA Bill will have on home education and we will continue to engage with government, the Western Cape Education departments and the Department of Basic Education. We do need your assistance in this regard and ask that you submit your comments based on your personal experience. If you need some guidance in writing your comments you can find it here.

Call For Comments On BELA Bill

It is time to sharpen your pencils or more accurately, flex your fingers. The Portfolio Committee on Basic Education has decided to call for public comments on the BELA Bill. Written comments can now be submitted and must reach parliament by 15 June 2022 at 16:00.

We have prepared the attached template (with extra information as a guide) to assist you in writing your comments. We also have a simplified version for kids. Their comments are just as valid as those of adults.

I know there are concerns regarding making your personal details known, but we are now writing to parliament and not the DBE. The role of parliament is to listen to and represent the people. They will not share your details with the relevant department at the DBE or PED as this will undermine the purpose of public engagement. Your voice is most powerful when you can share from personal experience how home education has benefited your family and what implications the proposed regulations will have on you.

Address your comments to Mrs. BP Mbinqo-Gigaba (chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education) and send your submission to Mr. Llewellyn Brown (the committee secretary) via email to
Please Bcc us at We would like to keep a tally of the comments submitted.

Please do not send your submission anonymously or in a group. Group submissions count as 1 vote, the same is true of petitions.

I would encourage you to use the Pestalozzi Trust’s system to submit your comments. It allows home educators to keep track of the number of submissions sent and it will show if any email is deleted, undelivered or unopened. Your information will be treated according to the POPI act and will thus not be shared with anyone other than the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education. Click here for the submissions page.

Click here for the latest draft of the BELA Bill.

Public Consultations On Section 51 – How Sincere Was the DBE?

On 15 December 2021 the Basic Education Law Amendments (BELA) Bill was referred to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education and the Select Committee on Education and Technology, Sport, Arts and Culture, for their information. This means that it is one step closer on a long journey to being signed into law.

The memorandum distributed alongside the BELA Bill states, “(1.7) The version of the Bill that is currently under consideration is the result of the incorporation of many of the commentators’ inputs, many hours of discussions at
task team meetings, countless hours of individual work put in by task team members, and inputs from a variety of officials and other persons who were consulted.”

But how sincere was the DBE in their consultations when the voices of those most affected by the proposed law was ignored?

In 2014/2015 home education associations and activists made presentations to the DBE, Umalusi, and other stakeholders. The focus of the presentations was to set a clear picture of the practice and realities of home education – an education modality that is as different from school/institutional education as a car is from a train. Home education has over a period of more than 2 decades evolved, adapted, and grown into a highly successful and trusted means of education. Representatives from Cape Home Educators (CHE) shared international research confirming the validity and success of home education.  Already during those early discussions, it became clear that government saw consultation as a tick box exercise and that they were firmly set on their course of action.

The BELA Bill was first published for public comments in October 2017. The DBE received just under 5000 written comments, approximately 1000 of which was submitted by home educators who commented on section 51 of the Schools Act.  This is remarkable if one considers that home educated children form around 1% of the total school aged population.  

In a presentation by the DBE to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education on 28 November 2017, DBE Director General Hubert Mathanzima Mweli described the comments received by the public as “an avalanche”. In his presentation on the intent of and changes to the South African Schools Act, home education received a 2 sentence mention, “Clause 25. An amendment to Section 51 of SASA. The amendment clarifies procedures for home education.”

A member of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) served on the BELA Bill task team. CHE met with the representative and other WCED officials in a series of meetings to discuss our concerns regarding section 51 of the BELA Bill.  Feedback on these meetings, the letter to MEC Debbie Schäfer, and the survey results we shared with the WCED can be found on our website.

The regulations proposed in the BELA Bill is not in line with the practice and reality of home education. It seeks to restrict home education to school/institutional education at home. Home education is a genie that will not return to the institutional education bottle.  

Despite numerous attempts by home education associations, activists, and the Pestalozzi Trust to inform government officials (and minister Angie Motshekga) of the flaws in the proposed regulations and despite us offering practical, implementable alternatives that will provide government with the certainty that home educated children are receiving quality basic education, our voice has been ignored. No substantive changes were made. Compared to the 2017 version, the current draft is even more restrictive and will cause more friction between home educators and the DBE and Provincial Education Departments and increase the administrative and financial burden of families and education departments.

It appears that the consultation process was a sham.

The 2017 version of the BELA Bill is available here.
The current (December 2021) version can be downloaded by clicking on the download button in the grey bar.

Notification Vs Registration

A recent article by on “30 Arguments Against a Register for Home Educators” confirmed that the struggles home educators face in South Africa are not unique to us. Cape Home Educators (CHE) are in favour of notification, and this article helps explain why.

The majority of reasons are directly applicable to the South African context. We can copy and paste them into our documents. Some need further exploration to make it applicable to South Africa as the laws and examples differ.

This is my attempt to put the UK document into a South African context.

The 1st reason against a home education register is that a parent should not have to ask permission to perform their legal responsibilities. Section 7 of the UK Education Act 1996 provides that “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”

The South African Schools Act of 1996 differs in that it states a parent must cause a child to attend school – thus, compulsory school attendance. It does not mention “to receive education”. The responsibility of a parent to educate their child is dealt with in the Children’s Act. Under the definitions in The Children’s Act 38 of 2005, care by the care-giver includes “guiding, directing and securing the child’s education and upbringing…”

South African parents should also not have to ask permission to perform their legal responsibility.

I can see home education families nod their heads in agreement with reasons 2- 8. I feel I should high-light points 5 and 16 regarding notification. I fully agree with the author that notification will provide the data government needs. Furthermore, notification treats home education parents with respect. The premise of registration is that parents are ill-equipped to educate their children, whereas notification implies a measure of trust.

I will adapt reason 9 to the South African context. The BELA Bill proposes that the parent of a home educated learner must convince the Head of Department that they (the parent) “understand what home education entails” and that they “accept responsibility for the implementation of home education.” The decision to home educate is not made lightly. Parents weigh up risks and benefits, they ask for information and assistance. They join social media support groups long before they start their home education journey. They know what home education is and are fully aware of the responsibility it carries.
A further requirement in BELA Bill is that parents must convince the Head of Department that they are acting in the best interest of their child. How will a government official, who has never met my child, be able to decide what is in his best interest? Frankly, I find these 2 requirements condescending and disrespectful.

Reason 10 is applicable with a few South African examples thrown in. Business Tech reported on 22 September 2021, “’South Africa needs to significantly overhaul its education system, with the matric certificate ‘not worth the paper it is printed on’, says Dr Thabi Leoka” and “…the current education system is not fit for purpose to provide school leavers the necessary skills.”  

An opinion piece by Ofentse Morwane published in The Saturday Star on 22 May 2021 states that schools are not safe places and that children are exposed to violence and abuse – both physical and sexual. Research conducted by Dr Shuti Steph Khumalo1 in 2019 gives worrying statistics.

Reason 11 and 13 go hand-in-hand. Home educators in the Western Cape are also not in favour of registration. CHE conducted a survey among home educators in the Western Cape in August 20212. 94.1% of the respondents indicated that they are uncomfortable with registration that requires approval from a government official. 75% indicated that they would be willing to register their children if the process was not subject to approval. Home educators in the Western Cape are in favour of a notification process.

CHE has met with the Western Cape Education Department for a series of meetings in 2021. Progress was made and we feel that the officials have a better understanding of the true nature of home education, but no changes have been made to the registration requirement as proposed in the BELA Bill. Our interactions with government have been less than satisfactory and it feels as if consultation with home educators is simply a box that needs to be ticked.

Reasons 14 – 18 again receives a nod of the head. Reason 19 is applicable to the UK but is still a point we have in common. CHE and Learn Free have submitted research to the DBE and the WCED on several occasions in the past 6-7 years. It appears that the research was not used when drafting legislation and policy.

Parents will agree with reasons 21 and 30. We do not want strangers or government officials to interview our children without our consent.

Reasons 22 – 25. The BELA Bill requires that home educated learners be assessed annually by a competent assessor (not the parent, unless the parent is a registered teacher) and the reports must be submitted to the Head of Department at the end of each phase. What will happen with the reports is an open question. BELA Bill gives no indication.

The DBE says it is concerned about the quality of education a home educated learner receives. I can put their minds to rest. The schools need more attention than home education families do. In the CHE survey 90,8% of the respondents indicated that they home educate in order to give their child an individualised quality education.

South Africa performed exceptionally poorly in the PIRLS literacy survey conducted in 20163 placing last among the 50 countries who participated. An article4 published in January 2019 by UCT shares the following information: “Research shows that in 2008 only 60% of the cohort of pupils who had started grade 1 twelve years previously actually wrote their matric exams – and of those, only 37% passed.” And “KwaZulu-Natal has been the hardest hit, according to Metcalfe. In that province only 45.4% of pupils have their own reading textbooks and 50.1% have their own maths textbooks. Similarly, in the Eastern Cape, only 56.2% of pupils have their own reading textbooks and 57.2% have their own maths textbooks. Limpopo is marginally better; 58.9% of pupils have their own reading textbooks while 62.4% have their own maths textbooks.”

The PIRLS survey also found that children whose parents read to them and help with homework performed better in reading tests.

A research summary by Christina Clark5 states: “The evidence about the benefits of parents being involved in their children’s education in general, and their children’s literacy activities in particular, is overwhelming.” She also states: “Success in reading is a gateway to success in other academic areas as well.”

An article in the Conversation6 cites research7 conducted in Australia that shows that home educated learners often get better test results and have more degrees than their peers. The summary of the research paper states: “We conclude that the crucial factor for fostering academic success is a structured approach that intermixes a high level of parental input along with guided instruction across meaningful learning experiences.”

Home education parents who follow a non-institutional approach are fully involved in the education of their children. They did not pass the responsibility on to a third party.

And for the last time I see some heads nodding in agreement with reasons 26-29.

Anelle Burger
CHE Chairperson

  5. Why it is important to involve parents in their children’s literacy development – a brief research summary by Christina Clark, National Literacy Trust;

JLC Meeting 7 October 2021

Cape Home Educators (CHE) and representatives from Liberty in Learning, Pestalozzi Trust, other home education associations, curriculum providers and interested individuals met with Mr. Deon Louw from the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) on 7 October 2021.

The meeting was called by Mr. Louw and is in preparation for the establishment of a Joint Liaison Committee (JLC). The purpose, objectives, and participants of the JLC is still under discussion.

At the meeting Mr. Louw gave a short presentation on the current laws and policies (both national and provincial) that govern the registration of learners for home education. He explained the process, spoke about the people involved and tried to provide clarity on issues such as curriculum choice, home visits, and a suitable learning environment.

The presentation and subsequent discussion high-lighted the need for legislation that is in-line with the practice of home education. In the last 20 years home education has evolved, and innovative methods of child-centered education has arisen and gained ground. Legislation did not keep pace and is completely outdated. The provisions in BELA Bill are also not aligned with the practice of home education and will not be an improvement on the current laws and regulations.

Representatives from other organisations raised the same concerns that CHE had discussed with the WCED during our series of meetings earlier in 2021. We appreciate their support in this regard.

CHE remains committed to engage with the WCED and the DBE in matters that affect home education.

BELA Bill survey results

At the end of July, beginning of August 2021 CHE conducted a short survey among home educators in the Western Cape. We received 152 responses and the results clearly show that the home education regulations proposed in the BELA Bill does not reflect the reality of home education. Here are some of the high-lights of the survey.

Parents are opposed to and reject registration that requires approval from an administrator.

Home educators work towards a long term goal of educating their children. They follow a child-paced, child-led approach which means that they often do not follow a strict schedule or the age-grade bands of school.

Home educators use various methods to assess their children’s progress. Here are some of the comments in answer to the question “How do you assess the learning and development of your child?”

It is relational to the tutorial style of HE
Continuous assessment through spending much time with him and he loves to tell me what he has learned.
Via their Cambridge curriculum 
When tasks are completed, it is easy to see if the information is being utilized and understood. 
Once we are done with a topic we do a test to assess the development of my child.
Through BIDC with 6 assignments per subject.
Through observation
Continuous assessment during the application after each lesson.
For maths and English we follow a curriculum and there is ongoing assessment as we follow a mastery model. 
Discussions around work, quality of their output and end of term tests (self-administered) for Maths and Languages 
By continuous informal assessment

There are many ways to show that a child is learning and formal assessments by a third party is not the only way.

Home educators chose to follow this path for a variety of reasons.

CHE’s Letter to Minister Debbie Schäfer and Advocate Lynn Coleridge-Zils Following Our Series of Meetings in 2021

Representatives of Cape Home Educators met with the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) in the second and third quarter of 2021 to share with them our concerns regarding section 51 of the BELA Bill. Research on home education and the impact that the BELA Bill will have on home educators were also shared with the WCED.

After our final meeting on 25 August 2021 we sent a copy of this letter to Minister Schäfer and Adv Coleridge-Zils.
We believe it is in the best interest of our members and the broader home education community to be informed of these discussions.

30 August 2021

Minister Debbie Schäfer, Advocate Lynn Coleridge-Zils


The education landscape changed fundamentally since 2020. Covid-19 brought disruption and uncertainty, but it also brought a new perspective and opportunity for change. The traditional school system could not realise the right to a basic education. Some schools scrambled to devise ways in which to continue to provide a basic education and Zoom classes, online schools, educational YouTube channels, and tutoring apps came to the fore. Others had to close their doors and hope to be able to catch up when the situation improves. Home education on the other hand, with its flexible curricula and approaches could weather the storm and with a few quick adaptations, continued to provide learners with a basic education.

While the education landscape changed fundamentally, BELA Bill did not change. In 2012, the minister stated in parliament that the BELA Bill was designed “… with the view of providing for Home Education as part of the formal schooling system.” (Q 2521 in 2012). Laws pertaining to home education is part of the Schools Act and over time this will force home education to be more like school which will result in it being shackled to the past and the flexibility and robustness of this alternative education system will be severely limited. Home education is an education modality that is as far removed from the school system as a car is from a train. And though they are both forms of transport that convey people from point A to point B they are not regulated under the same act.

Provinces handle independent school registration according to their provincial competency. During the pandemic provinces handled crisis schooling as part of their provincial competency, and even had different school opening dates. In contrast we have in section 51 of the BELA Bill, a very detailed prescriptive law that limits a province’s ability to regulate home education in its own province. The DBE is “nationalising” home education as it has a registration portal on the DBE Website. This appears to infringe on a provincial competency. CHE are concerned that home education is treated differently from other modalities.

We recognise and appreciate the efforts of Adv Lynn Coleridge-Zils in drafting changes to the home education provisions of the BELA Bill.  It is evident that her understanding of home education has deepened. The changes she proposed in our meeting of 25 August 2021 unfortunately, still does not fit with the practice of home education. Our serious concerns regarding assessments were not adequately resolved and our concerns regarding registration requirements were not addressed.

Education officials not well-versed in home education will struggle to comprehend that a “purposeful programme” does not always make use of a set of textbooks or that child-paced education means that a learner might only learn to read at age 12. The requirement to have one’s child assessed by a competent assessor (one who is registered with the South African Council of Educators or with the South African Qualifications Authority) in practice means that the learner will have to follow a curriculum that is aligned with the national curriculum statement (in this case CAPS). Some of the key findings from The Impact of the BELA Bill Survey indicated that 89% of the respondents do not use CAPS aligned curricula. 93% of the respondents plan to use an alternative school leaving qualification and not write the National Senior Certificate. The CAPS focus of Section 51 of the BELA Bill is misplaced.

It is also concerning that there is no clear indication of how the assessment reports, submitted to the Head of Department will be used. It might just be filed, never to be looked at. Or it could be used in a malicious effort to dissuade parents from home education. It is unreasonable to expect of parents to spend time and money on assessments simply to comply with a requirement that very possibly has no personal benefit. Adv Coleridge-Zils stated that evidence of learning is required, and we acknowledge this, but there are less restrictive and less discriminating ways to provide evidence of learning. The problem with this requirement is that the school modality is being used as a template for regulating home education. This leads to conflict and friction as the two modalities have very little in common, about as much as an apple and an orange.

We appreciate the amount of work that has been put into BELA Bill since 2013 and understand the desire to finalise it. However, the bill is fundamentally flawed as it is not in line with the reality and practice of home education. It will receive significant resistance when presented to parliament and if promulgated will be challenged in courts. Going back to the drawing board now will avoid exponentially more conflict and wasted effort later.  

We had high hopes that the registration requirements would change to be in accordance with the practice of home education. The draft requirements treat parents as incompetent and callous carers and is perceived as a threat by many home education parents.

A survey conducted by CHE among home educators in the Western Cape indicated that 75% of the 152 respondents are willing to register for home education if registration is not subject to approval. 87.5% indicated that they are willing to register for home education if they are permitted to follow the educational approach and philosophy of their choice. The low compliance with registration is of concern to both CHE and the WCED.

Cape Home Educators (CHE) thanks minister Schäfer for affording us the opportunity to have had multiple meetings with the Western Cape Education Department, for establishing a Joint Liaison Committee on Home Education and for appointing a home education representative to the Western Cape Education Council. We acknowledge that this is a national bill, but CHE respectfully requests minister Schäfer, as our political representative, to advise minister Angie Motshekga of our deep concerns with the BELA Bill and to point out the practical problems it will lead to in the Western Cape. We ask that you relay our request for a total and collaborative review of the home education provisions of the BELA Bill. Amending a couple of clauses does not correct the fundamental flaws contained in the home education provisions of the BELA Bill.

As requested by yourself at the beginning of this series of meetings, we propose the following new definition for home education: Home education shall mean education managed and controlled by the parent that shall include the choice of educational method and or curriculum, assessment, and educational resources.

Or a slightly expanded version: Home education shall mean education, alternative to compulsory school attendance, managed and controlled by the parent and where appropriate the learner, that shall include the choice of educational method and or curriculum, assessment, and educational resources.

Adv Coleridge-Zils informed us that your efforts to add BELA Bill to the CEM agenda was unsuccessful and that you might write a letter to minister Motshekga detailing your proposal. We request that you include our concerns in that letter and would appreciate it if you shared her response to your letter with us.

In summary our concerns are:

  • The BELA Bill will not lessen the friction and level of mistrust between home educators and the education departments.
  • The assessment requirement is impracticable.
  • The requirements in BELA Bill does not address the reason for the low compliance to registration.
  • Home education is a modality totally removed from the school modality.

To efficiently regulate home education, legislation should be research-based and drawn up in collaboration with home educators. We therefore suggest a total review of section 51 of the BELA Bill and emphasize the need for a new regulatory framework.

Yours sincerely,

Anelle Burger

CHE Chairperson

Click the download button in the gray bar to access the pdf.