The Doe family (name changed) in KwaZulu-Natal were devastated. They home school their children for reasons of their religious conviction. In April, the Children’s court ordered that the three young children be removed and placed in the care of their grandparents, where they are compelled to attend school.
The only reason for removing the children provided by the court and the social workers is that the children don't attend school.
The grandparents live more than an hour's drive from the Doe family home. After nearly a year of conflict between the parents and the grandparents about the home education, the grandparents had asked that the children be placed in their care. According to the grandparents the parents were infringing the children's right to education by not sending them to school. Social workers and the court agreed.
In reality, only the eldest child (10) is liable to compulsory school attendance. The younger ones (3 and 6) have now also been placed in school.
At first, the parents were free to visit the children and did so almost every day. Later, the court changed this to weekends only. The parents were still allowed to speak to the children by telephone.
Later still, all visits were forbidden. It was claimed that the parents have a bad influence on the children. However, the parents were still allowed to phone the children.
The children complained about unacceptable incidents in the home of the grandparents, and another social agency became involved. This resulted in the children being removed from the grandparents and admitted to a "place of safety" near the home of the parents. Contact was still limited to telephone conversations only.
Two days later, the children were "temporarily" returned to the care of the grandparents, but the family circumstances of the grandparents' home must now be investigated by a social worker.
At the end of August, there will be yet another court appearance.
In addition to several social workers from two different agencies, a lawyer had been appointed to "represent" the children. She did so at several court appearances, although she has not spoken to the children to this day. The parents have been representing themselves all along.
The parents' access to the children had been restricted because the grandparents and social workers judged that the parents have a "bad influence" on the children. Also, although the two younger children are not liable to compulsorily school attendance, in order to "maintain the sibling bond" according to the social workers. The latest development is that they want to remove the eldest from the two younger ones, because she is judged (by the social workers) to have a "bad influence" on them!
Over the past year, the desperate parents had attempted several avenues to resolve the issue. They tried to enlist the eldest child with a full-service curriculum suppliers, and applied for registration with the KZN education department. The department lost the papers. The parents did not find strong support from curriculum supplier either.
Recently, the parents bought the another curriculum system for the eldest child, and finally managed to obtain a registration with the education department, which they received this morning. There is, however, no certainty that this will persuade the court, in the light of the fact that only school attendance satisfies the social workers, and in view of the claims of unspecified "bad influence" that have been established.
Understandably, the parents and the children are all severely traumatized by now, and the father approached the Pestalozzi Trust for assistance immediately when he learnt of its existence yesterday.
The Trust will do its utmost to assist the family. Because the family are not members of the legal defence fund, the Trust is severely restricted in the ways in which it can assist the family.
The Trust has been advised that the best action at this stage is to launch an urgent application in the High Court for the return of the children to the care of their parents. That requires funds that the Trust cannot expend on non-members. For that reason, the executive of the Trust has resolved to start a fund-raising campaign. Donations can be made into the Trust account: Pestalozzi Trust, ABSA, 4048112677, Hatfield 335545. Please use the reference: Return Children.
In the meantime, Trust members who live in the vicinity of the family have been alerted to their plight so that they can offer such emotional and other support as they can. Your prayers for this family are greatly needed.
Posted by Leendert van Oostrum on the [tuisonderwys] forum.