Friday 12 April

Parents should be cautious when opting for homeschooling

Section27 Annual Reports


News24 – CityPress
Zeenat Sujee and Fatima Laher

Online and homeschooling have emerged as common trends, driven by the decline of the public schooling system. Many parents are opting to enroll their children in online or homeschooling alternatives. While these options may seem attractive and ‘safe’, it is crucial for parents to remain vigilant and aware of potential red flags.

SECTION27 was approached by a parent whose child was sexually assaulted by a fellow learner at a centre that purported to provide tutorial classes for learners enrolled as homeschoolers. Regrettably, the centre did not address the allegation with the gravity it warranted.

Further investigation revealed that the centre operates without any established policies such as disciplinary procedures and has yet to complete the necessary registration process to exist as a private school.

The centre operated as a de facto school as learners attended the centre every day as they would an ordinary school.   

The Gauteng department of education has, since SECTION27’s intervention, shut down the centre for failing to comply with registration requirements in terms of the SA Schools Act of 1996 (Sasa).

The legal framework ensures that all learners’ rights to basic education must be protected and enhanced. Section 29 (1)(a) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa seeks to advance the right to basic education. Section 29 must be read with section 28 (2) of the Constitution, which enhances the rights of the child. The best interests of the child are paramount, and parents need to uphold the best interests of the child’s principle when deciding on schooling trajectories for their children.

Sasa guides parents and it goes on to provide regulation of homeschooling. Section 3(1) of Sasa states that “every parent must cause every learner for whom he or she is responsible to attend a school from the first school day of the year, in which such learner reaches the age of seven years, until the last school day of the year – in which such learner reaches the age of fifteen years or Grade 9, whichever occurs first.”

Section 51 of Sasa mandates parents to register their child with the head of a provincial education department (PED) if they intend to provide home education.

The head of department will proceed to register the learner if they are convinced that such registration aligns with the best interests of the learner and that the home education is likely to meet the standard of education provided in a public school.

Home education specifically pertains to the compulsory schooling phase, encompassing grades 1 to 9 or until the age of 15. For learners in the Further Education and Training (FET) phase, spanning grades 10 to 12, registration must be undertaken with an assessment board through an independent service provider.

In Schneider NO v Aspeling 2010 (5) SA 203 (WCC), the court provided clarification, emphasising that a parent seeking to homeschool their child must adhere to the applicable legislation, specifically sections 3(1) and 51 of the act. Furthermore, the court underscored that it would not condone or approve any breach of Sasa in terms of compliance by a parent opting to homeschool their child.

In a homeschooling environment, parents shoulder specific roles and responsibilities. These include applying to the head of department (HOD) for learner registration to receive education at home, providing access to information, offering guidance, assistance and management, as well as supporting the learner’s home education.

Parents are required to assume responsibility for the registered learner’s education, comply with reasonable conditions set by the HOD, and facilitate education in accordance with the law.

Additionally, they must maintain records of attendance and a suitable timetable, select the curriculum for the learner, and ensure familiarity and competence in delivering the chosen curriculum.

Parents are obligated to inform the HOD in writing if they decide to withdraw the learner from home education, requesting termination of the learner’s registration. In cases where compulsory attendance is mandated by law, parents must enroll the learner in a school unless exempted by the HOD. Lastly, parents are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the policy on home education.

Parents may not facilitate home education that does not take place primarily at the learner’s home, taking into consideration that the parent may take the learner to extra-curricular activities or to areas such as museums, libraries and heritage sites to support the education programme.

The parent should also refrain from associating or causing their child to be associated with any illegal independent educational institution in respect of the home education provision. Such an association violates the Sasa and is not in the best interests of the learner.

The HOD may be called upon to investigate if the education received by the learner at home is in her or his educational interests, which may lead to the withdrawal of the registration of a learner to receive education at home.

The reinforcement of homeschooling regulations through the Basic Education Law Amendment (BELA), which is currently before lawmakers, is a welcome development.

This regulatory framework ensures that learners are safeguarded and their fundamental right to basic education is firmly established.

To ensure the safety and well-being of the learner, parents need to exercise caution when engaging the services of a tutor, competent assessor, or any other individual. In this regard, it is strongly recommended that parents take specific precautions, such as vetting the prospective educator.

This should involve verification of the person against Part B of the National Child Protection Register, a register that includes persons who are unsuitable to work with children. By taking these precautions, parents contribute to creating a secure and protective learning environment for their children.

Thus, when looking at options for the child’s education, parents must be cognisant of the law, and is permitted.  Where learners are attending private institutions, parents must ensure that the rights of their children will be protected and they will receive an adequate education and not be harmed in any way.