Regulatory environment & support for learning centres
SAHomeschoolers.Org receives regular enquiries from parents who want to know where they can send their child to receive home education. The law however stipulates that home education is when children receive their education at their own home. Parents cannot send their child somewhere else to receive home education.
However homeschool, micro school, learning centre, unregistered private school, low fee school and cottage school are all different terms that are used to refer to a new fast growing phenomenon in the South African educational environment. These are (mostly) small independent or private schools that are operated by a small group of entrepreneurs, parents, ex teachers or volunteers. This phenomenon has been acknowledged in a research paper by the Centre for Development and Enterprise. This paper describes the phenomenon as the "hidden assets" of South Africa. This research was followed up by another report in 2012 with the title "Promoting School choice for the poor" and in 2013 with another report with the title "Affordable Private Schools in South Africa"
These types of schools are growing very fast in countries such as India, Pakistan, Chile, Ghana en Colombia, but also occurs in a highly regulated country such as the Netherlands. In Nepal, a former actor started a network of bamboo schools to provide private education to poor children.
A more recent development are boutique schools. These schools are fast replacing the more traditional private schools in that learning is blended, they are progressive and teachers are mentors. Boutique school generally are slightly bigger (can accomodate up to 50 students) than cottage schools / learning centres, but smaller than typical private schools.
LEGAL ENVIRONMENT OF LEARNING CENTRES
Although South African citizens have the constitutional right (Art 29-3) to operate independent or private schools, many of these independent or private schools are not registered with the provincial government. According to the report, the reason is that in order to register as an independent or private school, the school is expected to meet a large number of strict requirements set by officials who have no knowledge of independent or private education. Sometimes it also takes years to register an independent or private school.
Officials at the Department of Education are generally negative about small independent or private schools and view them as “fly by nights” which exploit parents by charging high fees and delivering low quality education. Due to this, the provincial government actively attempts to close down unregistered independent or private schools. Unregistered independent or private schools are therefore constantly exposed to the risk of being closed by government.
SUPPORT LEARNING CENTRES
Various initiatives have been launched to support learning centres.
Initiative by SA Homeschoolers & Pestalozzi Trust
Given that South African citizens have a constitutional right to establish independent or private schools;
given that the provincial authorities require citizens to meet burdensome and illegal requirements in order to be allowed to exercise what they are entitled to;
given that there are entrepreneurs who want to establish and maintain independent or private schools;
given that there are parents who want to send their children to such unregistered independent or private schools in order to promote the interests of their children;
the SAHomeschoolers.Org in co-operation with the Pestalozzi Trust have decided to launch an initiative to support parents to find these schools without making the contact details of the schools publically available.
The Pestalozzi Trust is a registered public benefit organisation and has made it possible for parents to choose home education with assurance and confidence and in the best interests of their children since 1998. The Trust does this by preventing and solving conflict between members and education and welfare departments and other state authorities, and by defending members families in court if conflict cannot be settled outside the courts.
SAHomeschoolers.Org operates and comprehensive independent website that brings together parents and suppliers of products and services to homeschooling parents.
This initiative will provide the following benefits to stakeholders:
- Entrepreneurs will be able to maintain independent or unregistered private schools without the risk of being closed by the provincial authorities if they do not meet a number of unreasonable and illegal requirements.
- Parents will be able to find and contact such schools.
- Curriculum suppliers will be able to market their products to such entrepeneurs.
As part of the initiative, the Pestalozzi Trust has created a membership category for civil educational institutions that includes independent or private schools. Independent or private schools that join the Pestalozzi Trust will receive the following benefits:
- The Trust will assist the school in avoiding and solving conflict between the school and the authorities.
- The Trust will inform the school of the relevant issues with regards to registration with the authorities.
- The Trust will pay legal costs (at it's discretion) when a dispute between the school and the authorities needs to be resolved in a court.
- The Trust will market the initiative in the media.
As part of the initiative, the SAHomeschoolers.Org provides the following services:
- Facility on it’s website through which parents can contact unregistered independent or private schools without exposing the details of the organisation.
- A facility on it’s website through which curriculum suppliers that support learning centres can advertise their products and services to entrepeneurs that would like to start a learning centre.
Cottage School Facebook group
A Facebook group has been created where operators of learning centres can interact with each other. For safety reasons, the group is a closed group. Click here to join the group.