HOME SCHOOLING / INTERNATIONAL
South Africa
South Africa

November 1, 2017

South Africa Threatens to Overturn Advances in Homeschool Freedom

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Mike Donnelly MIKE DONNELLY HSLDA Director of Global Outreach

A new law proposed in South Africa would impose dramatic burdens on homeschooling families and authorize the government to jail parents for up to six years. Homeschool advocates are fighting the new proposal desperately to avoid these draconian consequences.

“Some homeschoolers are really scared,” said Karin van Oostrum, executive officer of the Pestalozzi Trust, a South African legal defense fund for homeschool families. “This may rip families apart. If parents are jailed and there is no one to look after their children, parents could lose custody and have their children placed in foster care. We are going back to the days of the Apartheid government.”

According to the Pestalozzi Trust website, South African education law currently “requires parents to send every child to school or to register the child for education at home unless the parent has good reasons to do neither. Parents who do not comply may be prosecuted and upon conviction be sentenced to a maximum of six months in jail or a fine.”

Past Persecution

This wouldn’t be the first time South African parents have experienced persecution for their choice to homeschool. In the 1990s, Andre and Bokkie Meintjes were jailed for seeking to educate their children at home. Although government oversight has eased during the following decades, families can still come under heavy scrutiny. In 2015, a family court in KwaZulu-Natal removed three young children from the custody of their parents on charges of homeschooling, and several legislative proposals have threatened parental rights.

Despite being a growing movement both in South Africa and around the world, home education is still a largely foreign concept to South Africa’s Basic Education Department (DBE), said Van Oostrum. There are an estimated 50,000–75,000 homeschooled children in the country. Van Oostrum said that the DBE “need[s] to consult with us so that we can create a law that works for all stakeholders.”

Because the proposed legislation unreasonably interferes with the rights of both parents and children to home educate, HSLDA will be opposing this legislation and supporting the South African homeschool community. The right of parents to determine how their children are educated is recognized as a “prior” right by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 26.3). As a party to numerous human rights treaties, South Africa must take care to ensure that they do not violate the fundamental rights of their citizens—which would happen if this proposed law were passed.

Defending the rights of home educating parents is part of HSLDA’s core mission. By working to advance home education globally, we strengthen our own rights in the United States. Sharing our experience with home education is one of the reasons HSLDA supports the development of global home education networks and is involved in the upcoming global conference. To learn how you can be part of this global movement for freedom, visit www.ghec2018.org.

To learn more about homeschooling in South Africa, please click here.