Written by Fatima Bham from Fitra Home Education South Africa. She is also engaged in the leadership of the Gauteng Legal Home Education Association that falls under our association structure.
“When I first started homeschooling a few years ago I was utterly confused by the law – despite the fact that I am a qualified attorney holding a masters degree in law. After reading pieces of legislation, various websites and forums and talking to people at homeschooling expos, I came to the conclusion that the homeschooling laws in South Africa are unreasonable, very possibly unconstitutional and that the legislation is worded in a way that affords me a loophole – it is okay not to register my child for homeschooling with the government if I am looking out for the best interests of my child. The best interests of the child is always paramount.
I did not want to follow CAPS. I did not want to have to comply with absurd reporting requirements. I did not want my children to be formally assessed. Doing all of these things would defeat the purpose of home educating my children. When my oldest was old enough to be of legal school-going age, I considered signing up with the Pestalozzi Trust, so that should I have any issues with the government, my family and I would be protected (I did belatedly sign up with them and am currently a member).
Fast forward a few years and Covid19 hit. Homeschooling was suddenly in vogue and scores of parents were looking for information. Wanting to help meet this need (and wanting to showcase all the glorious methods of homeschooling other than boxed curricula) I decided to conduct online workshops on “Homeschooling: The Basics”. In this workshop I wanted to include information on the legalities of homeschooling in South Africa. I therefore approached the legislation and policies with fresh vigour. I also delved into the case law, but what I discovered shocked me.
Reading the SA Schools Act in its entirety, it is crystal clear to me that there is no legal choice to make when it comes to registering your child or not registering your child. The option is to send your child to school or to register your child for homeschooling. When it comes to the best interest of your child, the courts have stated emphatically that they will only consider this issue if you are registered in terms of the law.
There is no loophole. There is a choice though.
You either choose to comply with the law OR if you think the laws are unjust, you go to court and you make that case. We live in an open and democratic society where we have processes which allow us to challenge unjust laws. If you disobey the law, claiming they are unjust but you don’t take legal action to rectify this, then you are simply disobeying the law.
This puts me in a conundrum. I don’t like our laws. I don’t think that the requirements reflect an understanding of homeschooling. As I dug deeper though, I realised a few other things:
1. I don’t understand what the legal requirements actually are. Sure I’ve read them but when speaking to a teacher, she made the requirements sound much easier than I had imagined – a “portfolio” is 4 documents per child, an “assessment” can be a video of my child mastering a skill (like telling time). Perhaps an “attendance register” can simply be a line that says my child has perfect attendance?
2. Many other countries regulate homeschooling in an even stricter manner than South Africa. The vagueness of our laws can actually work to our advantage if we learn how to work within the system. Homeschoolers, even unschoolers, in other countries have learned how to comply with laws and regulations in a way that still allows them to educate their children the way they want to. (This article brought to my attention by Shaista Musa was eye-opening: UnschoolingMom2Mom)
3. While our homeschooling laws appear unreasonable to me, I cannot say with certainty that they would be regarded as unconstitutional or unlawful in substance by a court of law. Balanced with our rights as parents to choose how to educate our children (something enshrined in the UN Declaration on Human Rights) is our government’s obligation to ensure that all children in this country have access to basic education (something enshrined in the South African Constitution). Any court considering the current laws and policy would have to consider both and the balancing act may not come out in our favour.
So what are my options as a homeschooler? I can go underground and simply choose to homeschool illegally. I can go to court to challenge the current laws (but this route doesn’t guarantee success and will be extremely expensive). Or I can engage with the government. I can either attempt to convince the government to change the current laws and if that is unsuccessful, I can attempt to sway the interpretation of the current laws as much in my favour as I can. Engagement, to me, makes the most sense.
I don’t want to be illegal and I don’t want to live in fear of a notice/order to send my child to school/jail time. The option of going to court to challenge the laws will still exist if engagement does not work. Right now our government has opened the doors to engagement. I attended a meeting on Monday 17 September 2020 with the DBE where many positive things were said. I don’t know if it will all be lived up to, but I see this as the most sensible route to take at the moment. In order to engage constructively, a group of eclectic homeschoolers ( myself, Atiyya Gardee, Razina Mayet, Carimah Fattar, Shaista Musa, ‘Aqeelah Ishmail, Zarina Chotia, Farzana Moolla, Sadiyah Mossam, and Nadiya Carrim) have formalised our existing group into an association called Fitra Home Education South Africa. Along with the intention to engage with government and other stakeholders, our members do many things – create homeschooling awareness, providing homeschooling support, support outreach projects, create our own eclectic unit study curricula. I am also part of the Gauteng Association for Legal Home Education – set up by Alma Lubbe Moodley with other homeschooling parents (and attorneys) who have taken their own journeys to discover what the law actually is and who are agreed on the best course of action. Those who are interested in joining us are welcome to meet up with us on these groups.”
This report provides feedback on the discussion held at the Ministerial First Home Education Roundtable Discussion held on 28 February 2020 at the Department of Basic Education, Pretoria, South Africa. The Roundtable was geared towards strengthening collaboration with the home education community to ensure proper implementation of the Policy on Home Education as set out in National Education Policy Act (NEPA) (No 27 of 1996) in conjunction with Section 51 of the South African School Act, 1996 (No. 84 of 1996). The theme of the event was “Home Education in the best interest of the learner”. (Programme at Annexure A)
Roundtable Discussion was also a response to the vision of the National Development Plan (NDP) which aims to ensure that all South African children attain a decent standard of living which includes quality education. The NDP is a plan for the whole country and it recommends engagement with all sectors to embrace a shared responsibility between government and social partners with a view of understanding their contribution to the implementation in fulfilling their roles.
The Roundtable was attended by 77 participants who represented parents, independent curriculum service providers and material providers, homeschooling associations, Pestalozzi Trust, Government departments as well as organisations with interest in home education
The objectives of the roundtable were to:
∙ create an opportunity to share with stakeholders the strategic direction of government and the sector;
∙ make a contribution to the development and implementation of the strategy and a sector plan on home education
∙ engage role-players in a robust discussion around the respective roles and responsibilities of the parent and the state concerning a child’s education; ∙ co-ordinate efforts on policy implementation, monitoring, and evaluation; ∙ create a home educators network in order to share experience and expertise for efficiency and cost-effectiveness; and
∙ strengthen collaboration and share ideas on the development of regulations and the effective implementation of the policy.
Background and Context
In South Africa, Home Education as outlined in the Policy on Home Education (2018) is defined as a programme of education for a learner, alternative to school attendance, which is provided under the direction and supervision of the learner’s parent primarily in the environment of the learner’s home. The programme caters for learners in Foundation Phase (Grade 1-3), Intermediate Phase (Grade 4-6), and Senior Phase (Grade 7-9). Parents who wish to provide home education to their children of compulsory school age (7-15) must apply for registration with a Provincial Department of Education in terms of Section 51 of the South African Schools Act (SASA), 84 of 1996.
Parents are free to choose the curriculum they wish to follow for their children; however, the curriculum must meet the minimum outcomes and standards as outlined by the Minister of Basic Education in the National Curriculum Statement. The policy provides on learner registration, curriculum, assessment, recording and reporting, monitoring, barriers to learning, social inclusion, and other sections (Policy on Home Education at Annexure B).
The Department of Basic Education acknowledges that there are key strategic partners in this sector, such as parents, homeschooling associations, independent curriculum service providers and material providers, other government departments as well as organizations that have a keen interest in home education. In 2014, the department opened its doors to the home educating community, started a consultation process, and work collaboratively in the policy development to ensure that the right of the child to education is not discounted – this door is still open to the voiceless and home educating community as a whole.
The Roundtable continues to nurture and strengthen this partnership all the time to share best practice and always look at possible and manageable ways to share information and resources. The Roundtable was well attended by 76 participants.
2. Problem Statement
Implementation of the Policy on Home Education requires collaboration and good partnership at all levels so that integrated planning which is enabled by working across multiple disciplines could be supported by all. Critical systemic and strategic measures need to be considered and decisive actions taken in recognition of Home Education as one of the national priorities.
Currently, there are persistent challenges that retard progress in policy implementation, and some are highlighted hereunder:
∙ Balancing the individual rights of parents with the rights of the child (as represented by the state).
∙ The current structured stakeholder engagement and partnerships need to be strengthened and more silent voices should be heard to advance the course of home education in the country and within DBE;
∙ The absence of an advocacy program on the policy has led to an uninformed/misinformed parent community that wishes to provide education to their children at home. The mushrooming of illegally operating sites under the guise of “home schools” take advantage of misinformed parents.
∙ Monitoring and regulating the home education generates the administrative and logistical problem for DBE of how to manage, with limited resources, sparsely populated individual households.
∙ Little reliable information exists about the number, demographic characteristics, and educational progress of South African home learners.
∙ Not all parents intending to educate their children at home comply with the provisions of the policy in terms of registration with the Department. This impacts on the quality of data collected by the system and monitoring as some learners are not registered with the Provinces.
∙ Lack of data of learners experiencing barriers to learning or with disabilities who at least should be receiving educational support; and
∙ Lack of trust between the home education community and the government stifles progress.
SECTION A: PLENARY SESSION 1
Opening and welcome by the Deputy Minister, Dr MR Mhaule, MP
In her warm welcoming words, the Deputy Minister reminded the delegates that the foundation of the child’s education is built during the compulsory school-going years in which the Policy on Home Education operates. She then highlighted that strategies on policy implementation should be geared towards driving efforts to improve learning outcomes in the sector as outlined in the National Development Plan (NDP) and bearing in mind that the NDP is entering its last decade of implementation.
She thanked parents who dedicate themselves to their children’s academic progress and cautioned the wrong parents who would lead to the disastrous education results of their children in which children would suffer. Furthermore, the Deputy Minister stressed that it is important that learners in home education are accounted for, reporting and recording is done, the performance of learners in the exit grades of Foundation, Intermediate, and Senior Phases are reported on, learners receive a quality education, and that learners are part of a bigger society.
The Deputy Minister warned parents of fly by night institutions that operate under the guise of home education and that some parents have been duped by heartless people who disappear and do not care about children’s education.
She encouraged delegates to engage robustly in the discussions and remember to put the interest of the learner first.
Keynote address by the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs AM Motshekga, MP
The Minister expressed an apology for the Director-General, Mr HM Mweli who couldn’t be part of the Roundtable due to a prior engagement in KwaZulu-Natal.
She felt honoured to have met for the first time in one room the independent curriculum service providers and material developers, home education associations, parents, Pestalozzi Trust, Government Departments as well as institutions that have an impact on DBE work and home education in particular. She acknowledged the presence of the School Governing Bodies (SGBs) whom she had met on other matters, especially the BELA Bill.
The Minister appreciated addressing representatives of the home education community on the theme “Home Education in the best interest of the learner”. She indicated that she was looking forward to creating a network with home educators and their networks as she felt the home education community is an important subsector of the work that DBE is doing. Therefore, DBE might as well formulate a very formal network and relationship with the different actors in this area.
On the issue of the BELA Bill, the Minister explained that it will be removed from public participation; however, it was not the end of the road. Public hearings would still be held and the public would still have an opportunity to give input. Therefore, it would be helpful if Dr Simelane could get reflections on the BELA Bill mainly on home education as it appears in the Bill. She invited the meeting to give inputs into the proposed provisions of the bill and submit reflections before the end of business Tuesday, 03 March 2020.
The Minister stressed that learner registration is one of the key issues for the government and acknowledged the presence of StatsSA in the meeting as numbers are very important for them. DBE invited StatsSA to be part of this meeting because it is difficult for DBE to reconcile the stats. She emphasised a need to have and collect this data. She was concerned that the availability of data was a very grey area and there was a need to clear this area and asked delegates to provide the sharing of this information so that DBE can have this information as Government. Other questions the Minister posed were: How many children are outside the school system, not in the public education space? Are they being home educated and where are they? For DBE, the ability to generate viable statistics and achieve quality basic education is actually very important. In order for DBE to monitor and support the sector, there is a need to discuss the questions of the difficulties for Government, which are also difficulties for others in that space. She stressed that the Constitution of the Republic of South African binds the Government to make education an inalienable right. Parents have a right to their children but children belong to the nation after all. God has put children in the parents’ hands and they are blessings but ultimately, they belong to the nation and everybody else so everybody has a joint responsibility towards children. She borrowed from an African saying “It takes a village to raise a child”, and equated participants in the Roundtable as the villages and children belonging to all.
She further reminded non-state actors, including private individuals that they also have a distinct role in terms of home education. So in a nutshell, the State does not have a monopoly on basic education; however, the State has a constitutional obligation to ensure that every South African child does have access to basic education that is of high quality if not better than that provided by the State. She pleaded for the sharing of information amongst all role players so that all sides are satisfied that children are protected. Therefore, it is a constitutional imperative for DBE to legislate issues around home education. This is part of the obligations that DBE has to ensure that all children receive a uniform, universal, and quality basic education.
Further questions to ponder on in the roundtable the Minister gave were: Working together to make things happen; knowing the performance of children in home education, even if it is a small number; participation in international assessments; participation in some of the State activities like SADEC, and international benchmarking in Literacy.
Providing statistics, the Minister cited that according to stats in 2016, children between the age of 5 and older make up 0.2% of children who were home educated. This gave about 2444 from the general households. It indicated for instance that 1.1% of them were in the Western Cape and Gauteng had 0.2%. In terms of registration in 2018, DBE only had 1500 and that shows a huge problem around just exchanging information because StatsSA put it around 2444. Yet, records with the provinces, DBE could only account for 1500 children that were properly registered. Therefore, there is a need for information sharing so that the State will have the right information.
Regarding BELA Bill, the Minister encouraged the roundtable to talk about what is punitive and what is reasonable as there were concerns from some stakeholders. She cited a Benoni case which could have been avoided where parents locked the children up, and the State had to account for that. She said such things should not happen on everyone’s watch such that no one is able to account and there were no witnesses. The Minister asked about the State’s constitutional responsibility if regulations are creating some fear to some people, the roundtable should be able to find the balance. The idea is to work together, find each other, and not bully anyone.
The Minister acknowledged the presence of the Presidency (DPME), StatsSA, Social Development, Health, and Home Affairs in the roundtable which showed that everybody can pull together as government through consultation. She also acknowledged the presence of parents who have a direct interest in children’s education and governing bodies who in some instances provide a variety of activities and support to include the participation of home educated learners in public school programmes for the enrichment of the school. Principals and associations were also invited in the roundtable to understand the mobility of learners from home education back to the mainstream schools. Principals sometimes find themselves having to deal with learners who did not follow their school curriculum but wanting to be admitted to schools; learners also wanting to know how far they are protected.
The Department of International Relations and Corporations (DIRCO) was also invited because in some instances DBE had to give permission to a family that was away for months traveling around the world with their children. DIRCO has an interest in the minors’ education hence certain documents are required from parents as proof that children’s right to education is not violated.
On the issue of learners with special education needs, the Minister appealed to the Roundtable participants to respond to learners’ needs as in most cases parents bear the responsibility alone. Dealing with the challenges and having to cope with raising a child that has special needs can be overwhelming. In some instances, it is single parents who have other children and they do not have any mechanism to deal with some of the challenges of a special needs child. Some parents opt to home educate due to special needs reason whereas to others it is religious and for some, it is the contamination of their children by certain socialisation and upbringing so that they really feel safer to do it on their own. The Minister implored that the Roundtable should help to promote social context in tackling a number of challenges and problems facing the country and that the intention should be to design a robust ecosystem of engagements as partners in the Constitution to find a juncture to act in the best interest of the children.
The consciousness from the roundtable will help everyone to relate, and get much more meaningfully creative solutions – nobody’s life should be made difficult. The Minister challenged the independent curriculum service providers, material service providers, and publishers who are in home education space to develop material that can be used so that everybody can benefit from the experiences and innovations. Quoting the Minister on synergies and relationship between home education and mainstream schools, she said “These innovations can feed into the public schooling systems because the children who are in the public schooling sector also belong to you, so you also have a responsibility to them. So in your corner as you work with home education, you should know that you are also a South African first. Those children in the public schools belong to you. So this has got to be to the advantage of everybody. We can see if we can learn and see if we can share resources and we can really make sure that different voices will say that our children are our asset as our nation, therefore we all have a responsibility to do what is best for them”.
In conclusion, the Minister quoted from an African American novelist and activist James Baldwin who said that “as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which one is being educated”. She invited participants to engage robustly in the commissions and together make strides.
Best Practice of Home Education: Presentation by a parent, Mrs S Breytenbach
Mrs Breytenbach shared her experiences when she started to home educate during the apartheid era when it was not yet allowed in South Africa. She said she had no option but to home educate her two grandsons with special education needs. As a teacher, she is an Educational consultant for ECD, participates in an outreach programme at ECD center as well as serve in the DBE working group that developed the Policy on Home Education.
Although registration information was not available and the process was long, Mrs Breytenbach took it upon herself to do the things right by registering with the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE). She performed her parental responsibilities by supporting her grandchildren in their academic and extra-curricular work as well as providing the necessary resources. Although she followed CAPS and in addition to South African books, she also used a variety of American, Scottish, and British books which she found suitable. DBE Policies such as Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support (SIAS) and National Protocol on Assessment also came in handy for her.
Mrs Breytenbach’s philosophy is that socialisation starts at the child’s own home with parents, brothers, and sisters, and therefore it is all more important for the child to be secure in his socialisation in his own home and it should be at the best interest of the child.
In her recommendations, she requested the department to speed up the process of registration and make it simpler.
Curriculum providers redefining the home education landscape: Presentation by Professor Rita Niemann, Head: Stakeholder and Academic Engagement, Optimi.
Professor Niemann compared South Africa to other African countries and feels that South Africa is leading the way in terms of home education. She viewed the role of independent curriculum service providers and feels that such providers can play an important role in supporting parents to act in accordance to the stipulations of the Policy on Home Education to ensure the best interest of the child. The private sector has the potential to collaborate by providing support to learners, and parents to promote compliance.
In terms of the South African context, she sees the two role-playing sectors as being the private sector in the form of independent curriculum service providers, and the State, having the responsibility to protect the rights of the child in terms of providing
Education for All, as bound by its obligation in terms of the DAKAR Agreement. However, he reminded the meeting that the state doesn’t have the capacity to provide everything, and as such the private sector has to form partnerships with the government
In accordance with the Policy, she highlighted that the parents need to register their children with the department and that the independent curriculum service provider cannot register the child on behalf of the parent. She said that curriculum providers could advocate for registration and make it part of their guidelines. Independent curriculum service providers can also assist in streamlining those registration processes by providing information on the curriculum to be followed.
Professor Niemann unpacked the requirements of the policy and the role that independent curriculum service providers can play and referred to the policy in detail as she moved through her recommendations, which are:
a) streamlining the registration process;
b) ensuring that all material, support, and assessments are aligned to the required development levels of the child (according to minimum standards of NCS);
c) centralised support experts and subject specialists;
d) creating platforms and systems to facilitate interaction such as webinars, discussion forums, additional notes and material, and practice programmes by which progress can be tracked, as well as online tutoring services and networks;
e) using competent assessors to set assessments and conduct marking; f) enlisting pre-approving invigilators and providing parents access to the approved list.
g) having clear assessment periods to be adhered to;
h) having online mark systems for learner marks to be entered and from which progress and final reports can be downloaded;
i) development of assessment tasks by competent assessors, at the required levels, which will enable the constitution of a proper portfolio of evidence that could be submitted to the PED;
j) providing parents with guides and study notes in order to assist them in facilitating their children’s learning ;
k) providing information on suggested educational activities.
l) availing academic year plans and calendars to enable progress through the content;
m) providing clear assessment plans and time schedules;
n) disseminating teaching, learning and assessment tips;
o) communicating clear promotion and progression requirements;
p) ensuring that the requirements are aligned to the minimum standards of the NCS;
q) ensuring that parents have access to their children’s’ progress throughout the year;
r) delivering continuous support via online platforms to learners across the country;
s) creating communities of practice through web-based and social platforms;
t) providing services for learners to obtain assessment accommodation, adaptations and exemptions;
u) providing access to readers and scribes to assist learners during assessments;
v) allowing for extended periods to complete a grade, and
w) hosting events to promote socialisation, and award learners excelling in sporting, academic, cultural and extramural activities.
Professor Niemann guided parents on what they should do in the FET Phase. A learner must register with an education provider registered with an assessment body (examination board) to comply with the programme requirements, such as SBA’s, PATs and the assessment requirements for the NSC.
In closing, she made the following recommendations:
a) Greater consultation and interaction between the public and the private sector;
b) Collaboration between PEDs and independent curriculum service providers should be enhanced in terms of learner registration;
c) Allowing for PEDs registration to be a shorter process on delivery of evidence that learners are registered with an approved curriculum provider whose curriculum delivery has been pre-approved by the PEDs (e.g. without parents providing the “full details of the educational programme”);
d) Enabling flow of communication to curriculum providers on latest policies and circulars;
e) Reviewing all policies to for the needs of the home education sector; and f) Advocating for the accreditation of independent curriculum service providers.
Professor Niemann encouraged collaboration with the government and in that way, South Africa will be an example for other countries.
Progress made in Home Education: Presentation by Dr Moses Simelane, Chief Director: Curriculum Implementation and Monitoring
Dr Simelane outlined the roadmap that DBE had followed from 2014 to where the Department of Basic Education is with regard to the policy development process.
A task team was established in 2014 to review the Policy on the registration of learners for home education, which was the existing policy at the time. The 1999 policy as it is commonly called. This was because of differences in terms of how that policy at the time was being implemented at provincial level. There were many disparities therefore there was a need to review the policy. So, the department prioritized the review of the policy as well as establishing systems that would guide the implementation of the policy because there was also a gap in that respect. He gave an example of a standardised registration system that was lacking and therefore identified as a gap in the policy. Dr Simelane continued to explain that a discussion document that would serve as the guiding framework for the process that was followed in reviewing the policy was drafted and presented at the second consultation meeting. Two consultations sessions with all stakeholders were held 2014 and 2015 respectively. Parents, homeschooling associations, curriculum providers, the Pestalozzi Trust as well as the key organizations in the area of home education were in attendance.
In July 2015, DBE decided to establish a working group that was to do the review of the policy. Dr Simelane took an opportunity to introduce the Lead Writer who was leading the way of the working group: Advocate Sithembiso Ntuli.
Several meetings were held where the work was taken forward. After completing the draft, it was submitted to The Presidency, the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) to be subjected to the Socio-economic Impact Assessment System (SEIAS) process. Dr Simelane explained that it has become the Government’s policy to subject all policies to this kind of scrutiny to measure the impact it will make on our South African society and to ensure that it is indeed implementable. The Policy was also submitted to different structures of the department, including the Heads of Education Department (HODs) and the Council of Education Ministers (CEM). The draft policy was gazetted for public comment in 2017 whereby 740 comments were received through public participation in respect of the policy. Some progressive comments were actually incorporated into that draft policy to make sure that all the necessary guidance from the public was taken into account.
There were critical issues that emerged in this process, which needed to be regulated, for instance, the issue of the shared responsibility between the state and the parent. Other issues as unpacked by Professor Niemann were registration process, curriculum provision, monitoring as well as issues of social cohesion.
The policy was promulgated in November of 2018 by the Minister with the concurrence of the CEM. Therefore, what followed was a process of developing the regulations that will guide the implementation of the policy in order to strengthen it. For instance, the requirement of the registration of the learners for home education is one of the issues that could be resolved in collaboration with the home educating community. The issue of registration, therefore, becomes paramount as it is known that any practice in the country should be regulated. The HOD has to make a sound determination as to whether exempting a learner from compulsory school attendance will be in the best interest of the learner in question. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa compels the department to consider the best interest of children over and above the interests of anybody else.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) gives parents a prior right to choose the education for their child and also provided for compulsory elementary education. So to realise the constitutional imperative, the South African Schools Act (SASA) provides for various forms of education provision in South Africa. It’s either a public school or a focus school or a school of specialization or an independent school or alternatively as indicated in legislation, parents may opt to educate their children in their own home. It’s a legislative provision to make sure that every child has access to their constitutional right.
Dr Simelane highlighted a need for collaboration with the stakeholders in conducting monitoring and ensuring that education is of quality. He stressed that the department cannot do it alone and may only conduct monitoring where it is practicable.
a) Barriers to learning
Dr Simelane advised parents that they are free to use Screening, Identification, Assessment and Support Policy (SIAS), which is the policy implemented by the Department of Basic Education to identify learners likely to experience barriers to learning or are already experiencing barrier so that there could be intervention measures that are instituted early enough to make sure that the child is appropriately supported in their learning and development.
Barriers to learning cut across all commissions. He implored and requested that all commissions should discuss this item when addressing the learning and development so that there is “no child left behind” taking from a United States slogan.
b) Basic Education Law Amendment (BELA) Bill
Dr Simelane reminded the meeting that the Minister had also implored and encouraged the meeting to make reflections on where the BELA Bill process is with regard to home education. Basic Education was in a process of amending some sections of its legislation in order to strengthen it even with emerging critical social and economic factors even some education imperatives across the globe. Because South Africa is part of the globe; the country has to think globally whilst continuing to act locally. Home education in respect of registration matters is a clause that is being strengthened in BELA Bill.
c) Implications of General Education Certificate (GEC) for learners in Grade 9
The purpose of the GEC is to provide a foundation Certificate for learners in the General Education and Training band. DBE has not had a formal basic education mechanism to recognize the achievement of learners at the end of the compulsory school phase. Hence, DBE is introducing the General Education Certificate. GEC acknowledges competencies gained from 9 years of formal schooling. It is not an exit examination or a school-leaving examination, but rather a measure to access and evaluate the learning and achievement of the learners at the end of the compulsory school phase. He elaborated that GEC is a standardized assessment that facilitates the transition from General Education to the 3 pathways of learning in the FET band. It is coupled with the diversification of curriculum offerings in Basic Education by introducing the 3-stream model. The Technical and Vocational as well as the Occupational pathway will be introduced. Learners will be guided through assessments to one of the pathways that will suit their interests, their aptitudes, and their abilities so that mitigating the high dropout rate as learners progress towards grade 10/11 is conducted. Dr Simelane brought this information to the attention of home education practitioners as it is important for parents to be aware of this offering and make an informed decision as the learner progresses.
Questions and Discussion: Facilitated by Mr Elijah Mhlanga, Chief Director: Communications
After all presentations were made, Mr Mhlanga, facilitated the session for delegates to pose questions, comments or points for clarity on presentations made. Further details were discussed in the commissions. The following concerns were raised:
∙ A question on assessment was posed on how it should be done since some learners use unique approaches and methods not the one used at school and they follow project-based learning.
∙ Clarity was needed to understand what sort of evidence-based strategies is needed for a parent who does not have teaching qualifications and lives in a farm. Learners follow the American syllabus, use free education resources which includes Numeracy and Literacy and will not be able to afford every three years phase test.
∙ The issue of home visits by departmental officials could provide a risk to the families since there are no criteria for conducting home visits.
∙ It was indicated that 70% of learners using material from one service provider are attending centers. There is a lack of monitoring from DBE to these centers as some are operating very well, some are horrible while others are fly by night.
∙ There was a concern that presentations dealt more about the curriculum and not about the child. Some parents who are concerned about their children thought there should be more specific details about the child and not curriculum.
∙ A request was made for safety security, wellbeing, proper structure to be created to represent home education communities so that they are involved in a robust discussion.
Response by the Minister
In her response, the Minister reminded delegates that the mandate for the Department of Basic Education is to provide education through the curriculum. The curriculum is the framework that guides education – formal assessment is part of the curriculum. She emphasised that curriculum is the bottom line and it must be done in the best interest of the child. A concern raised on grades or phases is neither here nor there as the bottom line is that something is needed to guide the system.
She further emphasised the importance of learner registration and that commission should discuss systems to be put in place for this function and for the department to get correct data as well as working together with StatsSA to assist in this regard.
Monitoring should be done in such a way that there is accountability but also to support the sector considering that resources are limited – there must be value for money. Much as families are worried about their safety, the Minister indicated that she was also worried about the safety of the officials when they visit homes as well as the proper use of resources in this activity. She indicated that the Department of Performance, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DPME) from the Presidency could guide on this issue.
Support for learners with special education needs was another concern the Minister raised and advised that the expertise of people who have been in this field is needed. Where there is no capacity, monitoring could be given to experts because it is important to find ways to meet obligations and do what is workable.
Instruments are needed to help with the mobility of learners. The Minister advised commissions to discuss the minimum platform of what should be agreed on and even look at international literature from other countries – best practice could be piloted.
SECTION B: COMMISSIONS
Facilitated by Ms Phindile Ngcobo: Chief Education Specialist, Home Education
Delegates participated in four commissions according to the following themes:
Commission 1: Strengthening advocacy and registration of home education learners.
Commission 2: Curriculum implementation, monitoring and evaluation in home education.
Commission 3: Assessment, recording and reporting learner performance.
Commission 4: Facilitating access to, mobility and progression within institutions of learning.
SECTION C: COMMISSIONS REPORT BACK
Facilitated by Mr Jabulani Ngcobo: Director, Inclusive Education
The notes in the table below were discussed in the breakaway sessions. Commissions reported back in the plenary session.
Way Forward and Closure: Dr Simelane
In closing, Dr Simelane tendered an apology for the Minister and the Deputy Minister who couldn’t attend the last session on the report back by commissions as they were held up in another important meeting. However, he assured the meeting that a full report of the day’s proceedings will be forwarded to the Minister.
He thanked all delegates for honouring the invitation and most importantly for engaging in fruitful discussions. Quoting his words, Dr Simelane implored the delegates to take the day’s proceedings seriously as he said “The day was well spent and it should not go to waste”.
He highlighted the following points to be considered as a way forward:
a) Establishment of a task team for each commission to look at the plans of action. A plan of action could serve as an accounting mechanism. Delegates may be approached by DBE to serve in the task teams;
b) Terms of Reference (TORs) identify clear deliverables, rules of engagement and disseminate these for adoption;
c) DBE could consider platforms and vehicles that could be used to facilitate engagements between DBE and stakeholders;
d) Share resources through the task team to make education better and of quality to the children; and
e) Make submission on the BELA Bill by end of business of Tuesday, 03 March 2020.
ANNEXURES Available on the SANHSA Facebook group and page
Home Education Roundtable Discussion Programme.pdf
Policy on Home Education.pdf
Mrs Sophie Breytenbach’s presentation (Parent).pptx
Prof Niemann Round table presentation to DBE – final.pptx
What is a national association? “National associations are formed to fill a gap that might be identified as a collective voice. National policies are not developed or influenced by a single organisation, hence the need for the formation of national associations. The coordination of the sector helps prohibit the government from being able to divide and rule”. 3 Cephas Zinhumwe, Secretary-General of the National Association of NGOs in Zimbabwe
National associations are membership networks whose raison d’être is to represent the collective interests of their members. A national association for homeschooling will play a critical part in bringing our movement together. The South African National Home Schooling Association (SANHSA) would exist to strengthen the associations in the rest of the country; create an enabling environment for civil society engagement; convene the movement as a whole; serve the needs of the associations that form part of it, and be a representative structure on a national level.
As representatives of the civil society community at a national level, SAHNSA would serve as a vehicle for a constructive and coordinated voice for the homeschooling movement. A national association is well placed to play the role of interlocutor between the government and our homeschooling movement, and are in a position of strength to influence public policy. A national association would generally play a lead role in addressing issues that have a reverberating impact on our movement as a whole. In issues that are more specific to a sub-sector of our movement (e.g. special needs and rural homeschooling), the national association would play more of a facilitating role by providing a forum for members with similar interests to collaborate, and by supporting member initiatives.
Why do we need to set up a national association? We need to transform the fragmented and weakened nature of our movement; hold our government to account; overcome restrictions on the freedoms of our movement; maximise resources and create a forum where our diverse organisations can meet; exchange knowledge and experience and jointly devise solutions to challenges plaguing our movement.
The goal behind the establishment of SANHSA is to encourage and advance the participation of every home educator in South Africa and to open up spaces for civil society engagement for our movement.
SANHSA will consist of representatives from each provincial association. The executive and Chairperson, that will run SANHSA, will be elected from the executives of each province which will serve as a mouthpiece for all associations represented and effectively every home educator in South Africa. It will be registered as an NPO(Non-Profit Organization) as soon as the executive has been elected and the constitution has been written. Each province would also need to formalise its structure by registering as an NPO to lend credibility, transparency, and accountability to the movement.
The Eastern Cape Home Schooling Association(ECHSA) has initiated the formation of SANHSA and the ECHSA executive will serve as an interim executive until an executive has been elected. ECHSA will also serve to help set up provincial associations in provinces that do not have associations and serve to co-ordinate with established associations in the country to form part of the national structure.
Individuals may also join SANHSA as it will act as a vessel to pool individuals that come from provinces that do not have associations as yet. SANHSA will take the opportunity to instruct and equip individuals to form their own associations. If an individual is part of an association that is part of SANHSA, the individual is automatically part of SANHSA.