State Attempts to Hijack Home Education - Resist the Draconian BELA Bill

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 Religious freedom must include freedom for parents to educate and discipline their children according to the Bible, whether in public schools, independent or church schools, or home schooling (Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 6:1-7; Matthew 28:18-20; Colossians 2:8). No state may lawfully interfere with how parents raise their children, or how churches and independent schools educate their children. Children are not made in the image of the state, but in the image of God and are entrusted to parents to bring up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

 

Urgent Action is Needed to Protect Your Children
The Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (“BELA Bill) is potentially the most dangerous in its threats to home education freedoms since 1991.

 

You can read the Bill here.

The following information is provided by the Pestalozzi Trust (Homeschooling Legal Defence Organisation):

What is the BELA Bill?
On the 13th of October 2017 the Department of Basic Education released the draft of the BELA Bill for public comment. This is the first stage of the process followed for a Bill to become an Act. The public currently has until this Friday, 10 November 2017 to comment on the Bill. On the 18th of October 2017, the Pestalozzi Trust sent a request to the DBE setting out compelling reasons that home educators be granted an extension of the period for public comment until the 15th February 2018. The Deputy Minister has declined to grant our request for an extension of the comment period. However, the representatives of the DBE explained during the meeting the procedures to be followed when considering the comments. It is clear that it is a very long drawn-out process, which in all likelihood will not be finalized in a few months’ time. All comments received before the finalization of the process are therefore welcome.

BELA is an amendment Bill. That means it is amending previous existing legislation. If you want to fully understand BELA, you must not only look at BELA but at the Acts it is replacing. In this case the most important Act that it proposes amending is the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 (SASA). BELA contains a number of provisions that will at very least severely limit the freedom of parents to educate their children at home. The most important changes are contained in Clause 25, which is the clause dealing with the Substitution of Section 51 of SASA (p.60).

Threats to Government Schools: Bill Would Strip School Governing Bodies of Many Powers
Apart from threats to home education, this Bill would squash nearly all powers of School Governing Bodies.

The changes will affect schools' language policy, teacher appointments and pupil admissions.

The Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools has slammed the Bill, which it believes is structured to diminish the powers of school governing bodies in important decision-making at schools.

The bill seeks to restrict who has the final say on the admission of pupils and the department will be the body that determines a school's language policy.

It seeks to limit the powers of the governing bodies in regard to recommending candidates for appointment. If the Bill is passed successfully, a school governing body would be able only to make recommendations to provincial education department heads about the appointment of potential teachers and would have no say in the appointment of principals, their deputies or school department heads.

The language policy proposal seeks to empower provinces to adopt more than one language of instruction.

Threats to Home Education
The most important changes regarding home education are the following:

You must follow the Government (CAPS) Curriculum
“51(2)(c) the proposed home education programme is suitable for the learner’s age, grade level, ability and covers the acquisition of content and skills at least comparable to the relevant national curriculum determined by the Minister; and”

The key phrase here is “contents”. You will have to have a curriculum that at least covers the content of the government schools’ curriculum (CAPS).

A “competent assessor” must assess your child every year, at your cost
“51(2)(d)(iii) arrange for the learner’s educational attainment to be assessed annually by a competent assessor, approved by the Head of Department, at the parent ‘s own expense who will apply a standard that is not inferior to the standard expected in a public school according to the learner’s age, grade level and ability…”

This essentially means a school teacher will have to assess your child annually to see if they have covered the content of the CAPS curriculum. You will have to pay for this. In the higher grades, it is likely that you will have to pay for multiple assessors, as a single assessor will not be competent to assess a subject they do not teach. This will apply up to and including grade 9.

Matric
If you want to write a ‘matriculation exam’, you must write the Senior Certificate Exam i.e. the South African matric.

“51(6) A parent of a learner who wishes to continue with home education after the learner has completed grade 9, must make use of the services of a private or independent service provider accredited by Umalusi, established in terms of section 4 of the General and Further Education and Training Quality Assurance Act. 2001 (Act No. 58 of 2001), to register for the Senior Certificate Examination through an independent or private assessment body.”

This means the following:

  • You must use an “accredited service provider” – no self-study.
  • You must complete grade 10,11 and 12 to write your matric.
  • This will cost you upward of R30 000 and rising.
  • You may not write the GED, Cambridge or any other international ‘matric’ unless you enrol in a school to do that.

Homeschooling Parents Who Do Not Register their Children Could Face Prosecution
In addition Clause 2 (a) which deals with the amendment to Section 3 (6) of SASA (p.50) states that a home educating parent may now be jailed for 6 years.

“ 3(6)(a) any parent who without just cause and after a written notice from the Head of Department, fails to comply with subsection (1), is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six [months] years, or to both such fine and such imprisonment; or..”

Cottage Schools/Learning Centres
In Clause 1, which amends Section 1 of SASA (p.49), it is made very clear that ‘Cottage Schools’, ’Tutor centres’ and ‘Learning Centres’ are not considered as places of home education and not covered by this Bill.

at 1.(e) ” home education’ means a purposeful programme of education for a learner, alternative to school attendance, which—,(a) is provided under the direction of the learner’s parent primarily in the environment of the learner’s home;”

What should I do?
We must make detailed submissions to show why we are opposed to the bill. The Trust is aware that each family is different and therefore we have devised a number of different ways for you to make your submission. Choose the method or methods most appropriate for you and your family but please make sure your voice is heard.

Choose a method to make a submission: 

  • Make a submission now, if you are used to making submissions to government or feel comfortable that you do not need help, please go ahead and make your submission right now. Send it to Adv Rudman: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Bcc a copy to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , this will allow the Pestalozzi Trust to keep track of the submissions. AND/OR:
  • Make an anonymous submission. One of the major concessions we were able to negotiate is that the DBE will accept anonymous submissions if handled through a legal process developed by the Trust. Your details will be completely hidden from the DBE officials. This process will be managed by the Trust’s lawyers. To keep the administrative burden and costs as low as possible, we will be asking you to use a pre-determined format. The details of the process and guidelines will be sent to you by the Pestallozi Trust.

Key points for your submission
Make the following key points in your submissions and keep making them when speaking to family, friends or even the media:

  • The DBE has not consulted with Home educators.
  • We are extremely disappointed that we have not been given an extension to the comment period. We do appreciate that all comments received before the finalization of the process (which may take many months) are welcome. This however, does not give us the opportunity to comment in the detail which we would like. Should additional matters come to our attention we will include them in additional submissions.
  • The Bill is state interference in the religious and educational freedom of parents and is an unnecessary, financial burden and time-wasting requirement. The Constitution of South Africa already recognises the rights of parents to home educate their children. Therefore, this Amendment Bill is in violation of the Constitution.
  • The Bill is completely impractical and will never work.

Share and Mobilise Others
Please tweet about your experience using #BELAbill and #homeschoolfreedom. Please also comment on the Pestalozzi Trust Facebook page at the FACT/ACT post, and post on the BELAbill Facebook page. Please tweet and post about every aspect; “Writing now, just read the pack, just sent my submission” etc.

Organisations
If you are a Home education or Cottage school organization, association, school or a service provider to any of the above, please contact Karin Van Oostrum and the Pestalozzi Trust will provide you with professional assistance to draw up your submission: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Join the Pestalozzi Trust
If you are not a member of the Pestalozzi Trust join today by clicking here, or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

See also:
The Reformation 500 Franschhoek Declaration
South Africa’s Education Crisis and the Biblical Solution
Biblical Principles for Africa
Schools and Colleges Harassed by Government
Threats to Freedom of Speech

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