Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

Parents who want to educate their children at home will have many new responsibilities to fulfil.

They should apply to the Department of Basic Education for the registration of a pupil‚ comply with any reasonable conditions set by the department‚ keep a record of attendance and a suitable timetable for the pupil, as well as provide and facilitate education in a manner that is consistent with the law.

These are some of the proposals contained in the department’s draft policy on home education‚ issued for public comment last week.

The notice comes a week after thousands of parents submitted letters opposing the proposed amendments to the South African Schools Act. If enacted‚ The Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill would quash nearly all powers of school governing bodies, such as in the enactment of a language policy‚ teacher appointments and student admissions.

The draft policy is intended to amend the Policy for the Registration of Learners for Home Education‚ promulgated in 1999. The public has until December 8 to submit inputs‚ comments and recommendations on the proposed policy. Organisations in favour of homeschooling have asked for more time to comment on the draft policy.

While the current policy is silent on "cottage schools"‚ the draft policy states that unregistered educational institutions, which have become commonly known as cottage schools, did not form part of the scope of home education.

The draft policy states that a parent may not "outsource" their role to provide education to the pupil to another person or institution. It also states that the pupils should receive their home education primarily at their home.

The Pestalozzi Trust‚ a legal defence fund for private education‚ advised parents to request an extension of the submission date to enable them to study the draft policy and make meaningful comments. It said it was studying the document and would provide guidelines to its members and interested parties for comments, and noted that, "The policy is a kind of manual to enable officials to apply the law."

The trust described the policy as a handbook the department will use when applying the law to home schoolers‚ to their applications for registration, and when visiting their homes to approve applications for registration.

Shaun Green‚ of the Association for Homeschooling‚ said the proposed changes to the policy were far more detailed and expected more from parents, saying, "It is wasteful of valuable resources to be proposing changes to a policy while simultaneously proposing changes to the related Act."

Green said 21 days to comment was not reasonable, but the association was preparing to submit comments.

Shirley Erwee‚ a homeschool curriculum author and activist‚ said the assumption running through this proposed new policy was that homeschooling parents could not be trusted to care for and educate their children‚ unless subjected to continual checks from government. "The irony is that parents can no longer trust the state to provide quality education for their children. This is one of the driving forces behind the growing home education and cottage-school movement in SA."

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