Along with an assault on parent’s rights to run school governing bodies the Basic Education Department wants to hijack home education. But the department discovered that home invasion isn’t so easy. On Tuesday a flood of requests for an extension to the period for public comment on the new draft Basic Education Amendments Law (BELA) overwhelmed their systems.
The department phoned Karin van Oostrum, Executive Officer of the Pestalozzi Trust, to ask her to please ask her members to stop e-mailing and phoning the department.
The Pestalozzi Trust is a legal defence fund for home and civil education that protects parent’s rights to home educate. Trust Chairperson Bouwe Van der Eems explains that the Trust aims to prevent and resolve conflict with the education department and when necessary pays the legal costs of families fighting for their right to choose what is best for their children.
“Home education has been legal since 1996 but this does not mean that the parents of children in home education and in cottage schools have been free from unlawful harassment by department officials,” says van der Eems. The new Bill however proposes measures that will be costly, disrupt families and are irrational.
Valuable state resources will be wasted
Every single education department is under immense financial pressure. On current projections all departments will end 2017 with a shortfall. Yet the draft Bill’s provisions are likely to entail additional administrative costs that some experts predict may top out at R100 million per annum. Although no one really knows, the Pestalozzi Trust’s request for details of the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment of the home education sections of the Bill has to date been ignored. Home education representatives believe that most of this is unnecessary and wasteful bureaucratic expenditure.
The Trust estimated that the administrative costs an individual family will bear could be as high as R20 000 p.a. That is before the costs of tuition, books and materials. “A significant number of home educators could simply not afford this,” says Karin van Oostrum who works closely with home educating families on a daily basis. Should this Bill become law, homeschoolers may have no other option than going to a local public school, thus further increasing the burden on the state.
Lack of consultation
“The concept of home education is foreign to the DBE, we have tried to consult with them but they froze us out of the process in 2015 and haven’t asked for our input since then. This has ended up making the bill unworkable in the home education environment. They need to consult with us so that we can create a law that works for all stakeholder,” stated van der Eems
Families will be ripped apart
The most alarming provision of the Bill is that if the department gets its way homeschooling parents may face jail time of up to six years. Karin van Oostrum says “some homeschoolers are really scared, this may rip families apart. If parents are jailed and there is no one to look after their children parents could lose custody and have their children placed in foster care. We are going back to the days of the Apartheid government.” In 1992 Andre and Bokkie Meintjes were jailed because they wanted to homeschool their children.
“Homeschoolers will not have their rights taken away from them without a fight,” said van Oostrum “and we hope the department will come to the table so that we can avoid a repeat of Tuesday’s events”. She urged homeschoolers to join the Pestalozzi Trust and join the fight to secure the best education possible for their children.