A legal guide to homeschooling in South Africa
This is Pestalozzi Trust’s current statement with regard registration for homeschooling in SA.
The law requires all children of compulsory school-going age to attend school. Parents who keep their children out of school can be prosecuted, in terms of Sec 3 of the SA Schools Act. But registration for homeschooling exempts a child from compulsory school attendance, according to the Policy on Home Education. So, a parent who registers can’t be prosecuted in terms of Sec 3.
Although homeschooling is legal in South Africa, the law regarding homeschooling is seriously restrictive, compared to that of other countries like the UK, the US, Canada and New Zealand, where homeschooling has a long and successful history as an inherent element of the educational system.
The restrictive nature of the law is for instance apparent in the registration process for homeschooling. There are various problems with the registration process in South Africa, which the Pestalozzi Trust and homeschooling leaders have repeatedly pointed out to the DBE (Department of Basic Education). Consequently, many parents regard it as not in the best interest of their children to be registered. They regard it as both an infringement of their right to direct their child’s education and of a child’s right to receive the best kind of education. These rights should be protected in the education laws in South Africa, since a parent’s right to choose the best kind of education for his child is protected in amongst others the Constitution, the Children’s Act and in many international treaties, and there is no reason why it should not equally be protected in South African education law.
Problems that parents see with the registration process:
(1) The state removes the parents’ ability to choose the kind of education that would develop their child’s personality in all respects.
(2) The home visit to inspect a parent’s home prior to registration is regarded as a violation of the right to privacy. No criteria for the parent’s home are made known to the family beforehand, leaving the parents in the unenviable position of not knowing what the officials will be looking for in their home.
(3) Another complicating factor is the fact that the South African homeschooling law is being changed. The BELA Bill which was published for commentary in 2017, but has not been promulgated yet as law, intends changing the homeschooling scene to delivery of state education at home. Parents hesitate to register now, not knowing how the BELA Bill is going to impact them, if they are already registered when it becomes law.
(4) It is also a problem that the registration process is a slow, cumbersome and erratic process, which probably during lockdown and its aftermath will proceed even slower than usual. Parents should be aware of that if they are aiming to get registered within a tight time frame.
Parents should therefore study the documents they are required to read when submitting the registration form very carefully to make sure that registration would really be in their child’s best interest, before submitting the registration form.
Parents are encouraged to join the Pestalozzi Trust, which is an organization established to help them defend their right to home education. Members receive an emergency number to call should they land in conflict with the DBE, Welfare or Police regarding their home education, and members are kept up to date with legal developments.