Home schooling in South Africa (often referred to as home education) had been illegal, until it was recognized in 1996 under the South African School Legislation, since when it has since grown exponentially.
Notable moments in the history of home schooling are provided below. Most of the content comes directly from primary sources and has not been documented anywhere yet:
1868: Dr Andrew Murray was the only NG Minister in the Free State and Transvaal, and he was based in Bloemfontein. He was tasked to travel through both republics baptizing people, giving catechism and performing marriage ceremonies. Dr. Murray was surprised that he very seldom found young people that were illiterate, in reading, writing and arithmetic and this despite the fact that there were no schools in the area traveled. Nomad farmers bordering the north east of the Cape Colony in the eighteen hundreds had no schools, teachers or religious ministers, and yet literacy was a universal occurrence.
1900+: Government schools increased in implementation and the freedom of home schooling was increasingly limited.
1992: The Association for Homeschooling is established.
1993: On 14 December 1992 Andre and Bokkie Meintjies were sentenced to prison because their children did not attend formal school. In a court case that lasted for almost five years, Andre was sentenced to two years and Bokkie one year in separate jails in Johannesburg, and this while their three children were placed in an orphanage in the Eastern Cape to prevent contact between the parents and children. Several other parents were given suspended sentences on condition they put their children in schools. All of those parents still have criminal records.
1994: A group action was launched by the Association for Homeschooling and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) from the USA that led to release of both Bokkie and Andre. The Meintjies couple were however released six months later under a blanket amnesty for prisoners with the implementation of the new constitution.
1995: Concept legislation was published to the effect that home schooling was to be illegal in South Africa. This led to a campaign being launched by home school leaders like Leendert van Oostrum, Graham Shortridge and Kate Durham with the HSLDA. Thousands of home schoolers in the USA wrote letters to the South African embassy in the USA in support of this campaign.
1996: In November of this year the SA Schools Act was promulgated wherein home schooling was recognized. In December of the same year, the new constitution of South Africa was accepted, in which the legal status of home schooling was entrenched more securely.
1998: The Pestalozzi Trust is established in accordance with a brief from the general meeting of the Association for Homeschooling to serve as a legal fund to ensure the continued freedom and to promote such freedom.
1999: Mr. Kader Asmal publishes the national policy concerning the registration of home schoolers, wherein the input from both the home schooling contingent and the education department is totally ignored. The Pestalozzi Trust advises home schoolers that the policy is in direct conflict with the SA Schools Act, and therefore not enforceable.
2001: The Constitutional Court confirms that the case of Harris that policies such as the registration of home schoolers may not be enforced on them.
2002: The Pestalozzi Trust organizes a campaign against the acceptance of the Revised National Curriculum, which would be compulsory for government- private schools as well as home schooling. In this curriculum children would be compelled to approve inter faith religion. At the end of the campaign a protest is held in Cape Town and on Church Square in Pretoria.
2004: The Gauteng department of education arranges a series of meetings to try and intimidate parents to register and to demand compliance to a range of irregular demands. Representatives of the Pestalozzi Trust and the Association for Homeschooling attended all the meetings.
2007: In opposition of the prosecution of home schoolers in Germany, the Association for Homeschooling holds a protest at the Deutsche Schule in Pretoria to bring this to the attention of the German community.
2008: New regulations on the administration of matric were promulgated. These regulations require that learners must complete Gr. 10 and Gr. 11 in order to be admitted to write the Gr. 12 exam. Whereas it was possible for homelearners to obtain a matric in less than a year at a cost of about R1000, it will now take 3 years at a cost of about R30 000.
2010: The Association for Homeschooling launches its website. This website has since grown to the most comprehensive independent website concerning home schooling in South Africa. Home Schooling Expos become more commonplace. Since this year there are annual expos in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and George.
2011: In a court case between the BCVO and the Minister of Education, Judge Cynthia Pretorius makes a remark that the national curriculum is not binding on independent schools and parents that home school their children.
2012 : Home education is discussed in parliament
2013: According to the results of the 2012 census, there are approximately 57000 home schooling students in South Africa. If all these learners were to be accommodated in schools, 130 schools would be required as well as 2000 teachers. Currently the government is saving approximately R700 million per year because the government is not paying for the education of these children.
2014: At the start of the year Pestalozzi Trust publishes an article "Homeschooling running into heavy weather".
2015: After the meetings in October, it was the intention to have follow-up meetings in January 2015. As the date of the follow-up meeting approached, the meeting was postponed to February 2015, in order to provide more time to the DBE to prepare for the meeting. Two weeks before this meeting, representatives requested that the agenda and working documents be sent to them as a matter of common courtesy. Soon after this representatives were informed that the meeting was postponed indefinitely.
Middle June, representatives received another invite for a meeting on the 2nd and 3 July, with a proposed agenda and a updated Discussion Document by dr. Trevor Coombe. The representatives were surprised by the updated discussion document. This document confirmed that the DBE was indeed willing to attempt to understand home education, because a number of significant paradigms shifts have been made since the previous Discussion Document that was presented in October 2014. In the preparation for the meeting, the agenda was changed a few times. The Association for Homeschooling managed to reserve more than 90 minutes of the agenda for a screening of the “Class Dismissed” movie.
Court Case in KZN (Sep - Dec)
In April the children of the Doe (real name witheld) family of KwaZulu-Natal have been removed from their parents by social workers for “not attending school”. The only reasons given to the court were that the children were not attending schools and that their parents were allegedly "indoctrinating" the children with their religious beliefs. After this, the Pestalozzi Trust became involved.
In December the their three eldest children (of whom the youngest is only three years old) were permanently returned to the care of their parents by the children's court, and set aside all the previous court orders. The court also refused to accept the recommendations of the social worker and other "interested parties" that the court orders the social worker to supervise the family's homeschooling for a year. He commented that there is nothing wrong when parents bring up their children in their own beliefs, and that such an upbringing makes the children better people. He also made it very clear that, in his view, these children should never have been before the court in the first place - the matter should have been dealt with by other means.
Global Homeschool Conference
In March 2016 the Global Home Education Conference (GHEC) 2016 took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Pestalozzi Trust Board of Trustees sent three of the trustees to the conference in Brazil, namely Leendert van Oostrum, Karin van Oostrum and Bouwe van der Eems.
Passing away of Leendert van Oostrum
In October 2016 the Pestalozzi Trust announced that it’s founder and chairman, Leendert van Oostrum passed away. Click here for an overview of his life. This was a great loss for the Pestalozzi trust. However, since the Pestalozzi Trust is essential for the continued existence of home education in South Africa, the trustees were determined to ensure that the trust continues to operate and grow it’s influence. After the passing away of Leendert van Oostrum, the previous Chairman and Manager of the Pestalozzi Trust, the Trustees resolved that the following three Trustees will fill the void left by Leendert’s demise. Mr Bouwe van der Eems was appointed as Chairman. Mrs Karin van Oostrum was appointed as Manager and Advocate André Williams supports the Executive as a legal consultant.