Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

Homeschooling in South Africa

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Homeschooling in South Africa

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.

  • Feb : In February 2001 the police accompanied by the media arrived at the home of Doddie Kleyhans to arrest her. Within three minutes The Pestalozzi Trust had an attorney on the line to the senior police officer on the scene. The attorney made it clear to the policeman that the whole issue was not arrest worthy, and that it was completely sufficient to warn her that a case was being investigated against her. This they did. And Beeld newspaper carried a front-page article about the issue. The posters against lampposts led with “Government vs Mother”. Due to great pressure from the office of the minister of education, the case was never closed but also never prosecuted. Till her death the cloud of prosecution hung over Doddie.
  • 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.

  • Aug : The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) publishes a notice in local papers in which they state that parents must register before 30 Sep in the year before they start with home education and that home education must be in line with the National Curriculum Statement. As a reaction the Association for Homeschooling and the Pestalozzi Trust wrote a letter to the WCED. A deputation of the Association, the Pestalozzi Trust and Cape Home Educators had a meeting with officials of the WCED to explain the issues caused by the notice.
  • 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

  • 7 Aug : In a Portfolio Committee meeting on Basic Education on 7 August 2012 the Department of Education stated that “the Department is currently developing policy in respect of home schooling
  • 8 Aug : The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) publishes the same notice of 2010 in local papers again. The Association for Homeschooling wrote a response to this notice, which was published in a number of local paper.
  • 6 Sep : In response to the above question, Ms Cherylynn Dudley (ACDP) asked the Minister of Basic Education when this policy will be available and what the content will be.
  • 11 Sep : The minister responded that the policy will available April/May 2013, because they have to go through an extensive consultation process.
  • 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.

  • 7 May : The Association for Homeschooling requested Ms Cherylynn Dudley (ACDP) to ask the minister who the Department of Education has contacted during their "extensive consultation process".
  • 12 Aug : Ms Cherylynn Dudley (ACDP) asked the minister who the Department of Education has contacted during their "extensive consultation process".
  • 2 Sep : The minister responds and states that no homeschooling organisations have been consulted, but that she is open to work with homeschooling organisations.
  • Nov : The first home school app is being released for Apple and Android. Click search for "sahomeschoolers" on Apple App Store and Google Play.
  • 2014: At the start of the year Pestalozzi Trust publishes an article "Homeschooling running into heavy weather".

  • 7 Feb : Referring to the minister's statement that she is open to work with homeschooling organisation, Cape Home Educators sends a letter to the Minister of Education putting it on record that they represent homeschooling families in the Western Cape. A copy is sent to the Western Cape Department of Education.
  • 11 Feb : In response to the above letter, the WCED sends a copy of the draft policy on home education stating to Cape Home Educators : The Provincial Minister of Education in the Western Cape is in the process of finalising the Policy on Education at Home for this province" " This policy is widely distributed to homeschoolers.
  • 12 Feb : Many homeschooling parents write letters to and phone the Democratic Alliance (DA) councilor in their area, because the Western Cape is ruled by the DA.
  • 12 Feb : Leendert van Oostrum publishes a Fact Sheet on the Draft policy on Home Education of the Western Cape Education Department.
  • 13 Feb : The Western Cape Minister of Education, min. Donald Grant responds to an enquiry from a councilor as follows: "As you are now aware the WCED has circulated draft regulations for comment. There are sound reasons for regulation given the new CAPS and SBA requirements. The draft is simply out for comment and that is what the WCED requires - comment. Please request those who are up in arms to communicate their objections as requested to the WCED. The WCED in turn will collate all the objections and provide feedback to the Ministry."
  • 13 Feb : In response to the message from min. Donald Grant, the Pestalozzi Trust writes a letter to the minister to justify why homeschooling parents are "up in arms" about the proposed policy by the WCED.
  • 14 Feb : Clive Roos from the WCED issues the following statement : "The document currently in circulation on Home Schooling has no formal status. It has not been seen by the Minister, the Head of Education or any formal structure within the WCED. The document has been withdrawn with immediate effect by the Head of Education and the WCED apologises unreservedly for any concerns which its appearance has caused."
  • 4 Mar : The Western Cape Education Department publishes the same notice on Home Education in the press. In 2010 and 2012 the notice was only published in local newspapers, but this time it was also published in large papers such as Die Burger.
  • Apr : A national home education magazine “Learning @ Home” was launched this month. The newsletter of the Cape Home Educators (CHE) was expanded to become national magazine. It is published quarterly and distributed in electronic format for free.
  • 11 Aug : The Pestalozzi Trust receives a reply to a letter that the Pestalozzi Trust wrote on 6 September 2010 from Donald Grant, the DA minister of education in the Western Cape. The reply was dated 27 October 2012, but the Pestalozzi Trust only received this letter on 11 August 2014. Since homeschooling parents view education as a responsibility of parents, the closing paragraph was particularly alarming. It reads : The provision of education is a state function, and where the state has granted permission in terms of due process as prescribed, it must support and monitor the provision of private education and home education.
  • 9,10 October : Homeschool Associations from all over South Africa and the Pestalozzi Trust met with Department of Basic Education (DBE) on 9,10 October to discuss new policy on Home Education. Homeschool representatives experienced the meeting positively, because they received ample time to present their case. DBE experienced the presentations by the representatives as well researched and providing valuable insights.
  • 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.

  • April : The Doe family (name changed) in KwaZulu-Natal was ripped apart. 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. This case is similar to the case of Domenic Johansonn in Sweden
  • 2,3 July : The second meeting between representatives from homeschool associations and the Department of Basic Education took place. The homeschool representatives were encouraged by the paradigm shifts that were made by DBE.
  • October - Dec : The working group was scheduled to meet every month from October to March. Three homeschooling individuals were invited to join these meeting. The first meeting was attended by Leendert van Oostrum and Joy Leavesley. Bouwe van der Eems, the third invitee, was unable to travel from Cape Town at short notice. From the start of the first working group meeting, it was made abundantly clear that a different dynamic was at work. During his opening remarks, for example, the chairman (the same Dr Simelane) claimed that “children belong to the state”. He proceeded to make it clear that those present were not there to represent their own stakeholder groups – they represented no-one except the Department of Basic Education. Very soon, it became obvious that the policy to be written would not represent anything that was presented by homeschool organisations during the consultation sessions. Instead, the discussions were aimed at implementing the original objective of the education minister – to bring home education in conformance with “the formal education system”. It became apparent to the two homeschoolers present that they were there only so that their names could be listed in the final policy proposal as “members of the working group”, giving the impression that homeschoolers were in support of the final proposals. During the second day, Leendert and Joy withdrew as members of the working group, but stated that they remained willing as resources to assist when needed. Only one of the three homeschoolers who had been invited on the working groups had not withdrawn – Bouwe van der Eems from Cape Town, who did not attend the first work group meeting. He was also unable to travel to Pretoria for the second meeting in November. Karin van Oostrum, another trustee of the Pestalozzi Trust, represented Bouwe at the November meeting. Karin’s impressions of the second meeting were the same as those of the two who had withdrawn during the first meeting. Before the third meeting Karin also withdrew.
  • 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.


    Homeschooling in South Africa Wikipedia

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