May I, legally homeschool my children?
Updated: Jun 24, 2022
In terms of the new proposed amendments to SASA (the South African School’s Act, No. 84 of 1996, as amended), children may apply in certain circumstances to be home-schooled.
The Basic Education Amendment Laws Bill (BELA), now open for public review as part of the legislative process makes significant amendments to various aspects of South Africa’s schooling system.
Amongst others, learners will have the opportunity to undergo homeschooling. The new Bill provides for a wide range of circumstances where parents may apply to the Department of Education, to have their kids home schooled and be exempted from contravening Section 3(5) of SASA, which makes school attendance compulsory from age seven to fifteen ( Grade 1 – 9)
The proposed amendment to section 51 of the South African Schools Act will not only cater for learners with physical or mental difficulties but also includes;
parents who have to travel for work purposes or;
parents who believe in the philosophy of homeschooling;
learners far away from public schools.
These learners may be granted permission to be home schooled, provided a successful application to the Department of Education. The Bill empowers the department with the discretion to monitor and withdraw such a homeschool grant to be educated at home. It will be expected that learners’ level of education is equal to those received in public schools. Private educators and tutors will have to comply and be registered with the department as such, in order to meet this standard. The financial burden on parents having to fit the bill for private educators does not necessarily make basic education more accessible to learners but merely provides another method of education.
The purpose of the legislature is not to exempt learners’ compulsory school attendance by granting permission to receive home based education but to enhance learners’ rights to basic education, by not prohibiting basic education via homeschooling. It remains an offense, in terms of the SASA Act, where no such permission is obtained from the department, and the offender's parents will face six months imprisonment or a fine if the learners were to be investigated and found not to be enrolled in the school system. Such situation may also be remedied with a written notice to enroll a learner in School, from the Department.
The new proposed Bill provides for a wide interpretation of the legislator’s intention, to elaborate and enforce all learners’ fundamental rights to basic education, in terms of section 29(1) of our Consitution, by allowing this category of learners to be home schooled, subject to the Department’s permission.
Parents must be cautious to think of homeschooling as an exemption from compulsory school attendance, as contemplated by Section 4(1) of The Act, where the Head of the Department, may exempt a learner partially or entirely from school attendance, subsequent to the Department’s discretion that it might be in the best interest of the child. This situation is different, in that it assesses the child’s ability to be taught by educators in normal circumstances. Contrary, to granting permission to be home schooled, subject to educational standards being met.
Parents following a philosophy of homeschooling will have to weigh the burden of increased private tuition costs, and possible inferior enforcement of discipline at home as suppose to the hands-on supervision of educators to enforce discipline with learners in public schools.