Basic Education Deputy Minister
Independent Service Curriculum/ Material Providers
Home Education Associations
Sister State Departments
School Governing Body Association
Parents and Guardians
It is indeed an honour and a privilege to welcome all of you to our 1st Home Education Roundtable Discussion.
The main purpose of this Home Education Roundtable is to create a social compact about the present and future policy trajectory of this important subsector of our basic education.
It gives us an opportunity to share our vision, interrogate emerging policy areas and, learn lessons from the ground as well as from various experts.
Thus the key objectives of this roundtable is to:
- Create a home educators’ network in order to share experiences, best practice, and expertise in-order to achieve efficiencies and realise value for money.
- Strengthen collaboration amongst stakeholders and share ideas on the development of regulations and the effective implementation of the existing policy.
- Understand and input into the proposed provisions of home education into the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill).
We are mindful of the challenges facing the sector such as non-compliance with registration requirements as set out in the 2018 Home Education Policy.
This non-compliance impacts on the quality of data collected by the government agencies such as StatsSA.
For us the registration is key in the monitoring and evaluation of the whole home education subsector.
To us the ability to generate reliable statistics and achieve quality basic education is actually the yin and yang of basic education governance.
Furthermore for us to monitor and report on this sector, we need all parents to keep records of learner progression; evidence of assessments and examinations at the end of each year.
Our world renowned Constitution which turns 24 this year makes access to basic education an inalienable human right for all.
In Juma Masjid case, the Constitutional Court considered the meaning and ambit of the right to basic education, and said that this right:
(A) is immediately realisable;
(B) may only be limited in terms of law of general application which is ‘reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom”; and
(C) is distinct from the right to further education provided for in section 29 (1) (b) of the Constitution.
Further it makes provisions for other non-state actors to provide basic education on condition that such an education is not inferior (if not better) to the one provided by the State.
These non-state actors may include private individuals such as private/independent schools or what has become a distinct provider, home education.
In the nutshell, the State doesn’t have a monopoly on basic education provision.
However, the State has a constitutional obligation to ensure that every South African child has access to basic education that is of high quality if not better than the one provided by the State.
It is this constitutional imperative that forces us to provide an enabling legislation such as the BELA Bill for all providers of basic education including the home education subsector.
At the heart of our Constitution, it is the obligation placed on the State to ensure that all children receive uniform, universal and quality basic education.
In other words, we haven’t reinvented the wheel with the inclusion of home education provisions in the BELA Bill just to fulfil the egos of state mandarins or political whims of a certain political party/organisation.
We are doing what the State does, legislate. Unfortunately in all modern democracies, law making is a sole preserve of the State.
In this country we do so in consultation with all our people.
We are also doing this to fulfil our international obligations as education is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and many other international human rights instruments.
These instruments include the African Charter on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child 1999; the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child; Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and World Declaration on Education for All which are part of South African law.
The right to education is one of the key principles underpinning the Education 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) adopted by the international community under the tutelage of the United Nations.
The SDG 4 is rights-based and seeks to ensure the full enjoyment of the right to education as fundamental to achieving sustainable development.
As a matter of principle, we would love to see home learners also being able to participate in international testing and assessment systems such as Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), Southern and Eastern Africa Consortium for Monitoring Educational Quality (SACMEQ) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).
Home education is the smallest but yet the fast growing subsector in our basic education agile ecosystem.
According to the General Household survey on 2016, 0.2% of the learners in South Africa (aged 5 and older) are home-schooling. This gives us a total of 32 444.
However, the breakdown reveals that the percentage home learners in the Western Cape is 1.1%, whereas Gauteng is 0.2%.
However, in reality there are no reliable statistics on home learners, hence the proposed BELA Bill provisions will plug this gap.
At the last count there were about only 1,500 learners registered across the country at the end of 2018. This figure tops just over 2000 in 2020.
The real cause of bickering over statistics is largely the reason we have to professionalise this subsector by providing uniform norms and standards of what constitutes home education.
The first key point is that, in terms of both the current policy and the draft BELA Bill, parents are required to register their children for home education with their Provincial Education Departments.
This is so that as Government we can be certain that every child is receiving basic education that is not inferior to the standard expected in a public school.
The punitive provisions in the BELA Bill are not about curbing home education, which is often the misconception, but about helping to ensure that due processes are followed in registration, adequate curriculum and assessments.
At the end, the State has an obligation, I repeat, to ensure that all children receive an education that is not inferior to the standard expected in a public school.
Furthermore, this reliable information will help us when we do our Country Reports on Basic Education to the United Nations amongst others.
Hence the BELA Bill changes the legal ramifications for parents who fail to register their home educated children from what is currently a six-month imprisonment sentence to a possible six-year sentence instead.
Although these regulations may seem severe – even in their current incarnation – the state has a broader constitutional responsibility to protect and advance the rights of the child and, thus act in their interest.
These penalties are in place to ensure that children receive education aligned to their age, grade, level and ability.
The 2018 Policy on Home Education was a first step aimed at protecting, promoting and ensuring the rights of learners to basic education within this fast growing subsector.
The policy correctly recognised parents’ right to choose the kind of education that shall be provided to their children with a caveat that it has to be equal if not better than the State education.
It further provides for registration, implementation and monitoring of home education in accordance with section 51 of the South African Schools Act 84 of 1996 (SASA).
As we know the number of registered home learners is minuscule hence the need to the BELA Bill provisions and accompanying enforcements and punishment thereof.
Available statistics from Provincial Education Departments show that a paltry 2647 learners are registered in 2020.
The existing policy was as a result of a wide spread consultation, a real social compact but compliance still lags behind.
We are doing the same (wide consultation) with the BELLA Bill especially Sections 51 which has made some amongst us hot under the collar.
It should be emphasised that we have no intention to throttle the home education subsector but to bring it in line with best practice through the BELA Bill home education provisions.
In essence, we are building from the policy to legislation.
Proponents of home education argue that in an event the first real teacher of any child is the parent.
In that respect some may correctly argue that home education is the oldest form of child education, which precedes formal school education in many countries.
As Basic Education Minister my job is to implement the provisions of our Constitution, and not to enter into the domain of ideological gymnastics.
As an educationist myself, I have my own ideological leanings that are of no relevance to the matter at hand.
In any event, the instruction, direction and nurture of any child has always been firmly in the family home, and augmented by resources available in the community.
However, home education in many countries today reflects a desire by parents to direct or supervise the formal home education of their children themselves just like teachers do in a public schooling sector.
To grapple with these weighty matters and find each other, we have invited an array of stakeholders.
As we know that in our country and beyond our borders parents have access to a varied array of commercially available learning programmes (online and otherwise) hence we have invited the independent curriculum/ material service providers.
We are also aware that many parents organise a variety of extra curricula activities for their home educated learners, which sometimes include participation in public school programmes by arrangement with a School Governing Bodies (SGBs).
Hence we extended the invitation to the SGBs and Principal’s Associations.
We have also extended the invitation to all relevant State departments that have a constitutional obligation to act in the best interest of the child.
These include departments such as StatsSA, Department of Justice Social Development, Health and International Relations and Cooperation.
Some may argue that home education is also one of the ways of making education more accessible for leaners experiencing barriers to learning.
Thus we have invited the South African National Association for Special Education (SANASE) to be part of these deliberations.
Some parents have established relationships with independent curriculum providers who provide learning programmes, material as well monitor and support learners hence their inclusion today.
As a matter of principle, this government promotes social compacts in tackling a myriad of problems facing our country.
We are acutely aware that as Government we cannot succeed if we leave our people behind.
I therefore make a plea that this Roundtable discussion shouldn’t be a talk shop.
We must design a robust ecosystem for further engagements as partners in the constitutional injunction to act in the best interest of the child, always.
In conclusion, the African American foremost novelist, activist and thinker James Baldwin once opined that the paradox of education is precisely this - that as one begins to become conscious one begins to examine the society in which he is being educated.
In other words as you become educated you begin to undertake an important human endeavour which is to produce new knowledge, ask new questions and develop new insights based on existing knowledge.
All of this begins at home. Geoffery Holder put it thus: ‘Education begins at home. You can’t blame the school for not putting into your child what you don’t put into him.’
I thank you.