Lifestyle

Protect your right to home school by joining The Pestalozzi Trust

The trust provides affordable legal defence and advocacy services to protect the freedom of members who choose to home school their children

The benefit of home education is that it can be adapted to the needs of each child and the values of the family.
The benefit of home education is that it can be adapted to the needs of each child and the values of the family.
Image: Supplied/Pestalozzi Trust

It has not always been legal to home educate your children in SA and parents have even been jailed for not sending their children to school. 

With the adoption of the constitution in 1994, the rights of parents to educate their children at home were recognised and home schooling became legal in SA. In 1996 the Schools Act made provision for home schooling in Section 51. 

The Pestalozzi Trust is a registered public benefit organisation established in 1998 to provide affordable legal defence and advocacy services to protect the rights and freedoms of all member families to educate their children at home. This empowers families to focus on learning with peace of mind and confidence, without unlawful interference. 

Home education has grown from a handful of families in the 1990s to an estimated 150,000 at the start of 2020. If SA follows the trend of a few other countries, this number is likely to have doubled due to the pandemic.

The benefit of home education is that it can be adapted to the needs of each child and the values of the family. Parents can choose from a variety of educational approaches, ranging from formal to informal, for example child-directed learning. 

This makes home education an affordable way to provide high-quality education, in the safety of the home. And since children can progress at their own pace, it’s suitable for children with special needs and for gifted children. Home education does not only solve educational problems, it also strengthens family bonds.

The law requires home learners to be registered with the state. Since education officials are guided by policies that interpret the law in a restrictive way, they often view alternative education as a threat to the establishment, and attempts to register can lead to conflict between home schooling families and authorities.

To help families bridge these conflict situations, members of the Pestalozzi Trust receive an emergency number to call when they need mediation. The trust helps the family sort out the problem, even if it escalates to court. 

Parents who choose home education can follow four easy steps to get started:

  1. Join the Pestalozzi Trust. Visit the website and join. The membership fee is R1,200 per family per year, or R100 per family payable by monthly debit order, with the membership period running for 12 months from the month that you join.

  2. Give the school notice in writing and in a friendly, grateful manner. Request the school also to prepare a transfer certificate for your child. Important: If you plan to return your child to the school next year or after Covid-19, contact the school to find out what the school would require of your child to be readmitted and placed.

  3. Organise your child’s learning materials. Use what you have at hand. Buy what you can afford or what works best for you now. There are home education consultants that can help parents to choose the best material for a family. See the section on resources on the Pestalozzi Trust website. Remember: Your child is not going to fall behind. In a home environment the child is learning much more than at school — it is real life. At home your child is in a safe, loving environment, with parents who care, like discussing important life issues, and encourage reading. Make the most of this time to teach your child everything you know.

  4. Listen to the home schooling and the law podcast for information on registration. Though home schooling is legal in SA, the law is restrictive. There are various problems with the registration process, which the Pestalozzi Trust and home schooling leaders have repeatedly pointed out to the basic education department (DBE). As a result, most home schooling parents don’t want to register and regard it as an infringement of their right to direct their child’s education. For instance, the home visit to inspect a parent’s home before registration is regarded as a violation of the right to privacy by parents. Parents should therefore carefully study the documents they are required to submit for registration.

Conflict between home educators and authorities is expected to increase. As it becomes clear that thousands of children will not return to school after the pandemic, school governing bodies and unions will start putting pressure on parents to return children to school.

The DBE is introducing new legislation that aims to transform home education into public school education at home, and that will restrict the freedom of parents to choose an education that is in the best interest of their children.

The Pestalozzi Trust is working to address these threats and is thankful for the financial support from its loyal members that makes this possible. 

This article was paid for by The Pestolozzi Trust.

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