On 13 October 2017 the Department of Basic Education published the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA Bill) for public comment. It proposes changes that could severely restrict the freedom of homeschooling parents to choose a type of education in the best interest of their children.
The public was only given until 10 November to comment on this bill, which is less than a month. The Pestalozzi Trust sent a letter to the department on 18 October to request an extension. As reported elsewhere, the Minister declined to give extension, but at the same time invited all comments to be sent in, even after the closing date.
The next step is for homeschool parents and organizations to submit their objections. The Pestalozzi Trust has been working in the background to analyse the bill, and has made the following resources available for writing your submission:
- BELA FACT SHEET FEITEBLAD
- Step-by-Step Guide to Make A BELA Bill Submission
- Stap-vir-stap-gids Hoe om ‘n voorlegging oor die BELA Bill te skryf
- Submission Letter Individuals Template
- Summary Sheet
To keep up to date with what is happening, watch the Facebook page of the Pestalozzi Trust, and join the Facebook group “BELABill”.
This campaign is about preserving the rights of parents to educate their children according to their own convictions, and Christians can trust that the Lord will help us in this cause. However, this campaign is not only about preserving our freedom, but also about teaching your children how to perform their civic duties in a democratic society. It is not only about home education, but it is home education in itself.
Why your submission is important
The courts give very great weight to the process of consultation. The first point in any consideration is: was there a fair process of consultation? We believe that there hasn’t been. We need your individual submissions to substantiate this. People have asked ‘Won’t the Minister just push this through?’ Yes, she could, but if she does, it will be a serious tactical mistake. The very first thing the court will consider is whether the department has consulted widely and fairly.
If the answer to that question is no, the bill will be struck down for that reason alone.
So your evidence is very important.
The number and variety of submissions showing this lack of consultation and its impact on the process will be vital evidence in court. Even if the DBE does not listen to us, a judge will look at and weigh the evidence. Your submission will be a vital part of that evidence.
How to choose the correct way to make your voice heard
If you do not need any assistance with your submission please go ahead and submit it as soon as possible. Please send a BCC copy to email@example.com.
If you require some help, we have developed a process to help you. The details of that process are set out in the Step-by-Step Guide.
We are also aware that many people are concerned about keeping their submissions anonymous. Please send your submission to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Write BELA Bill: ANONYMOUS in the subject line. Our attorneys will anonymize your submission, and we’ll submit the anonymous submissions.
For those who do not wish to write a submission, but would like to make their voices heard we have set up a survey on Survey Monkey. In this survey you will be able to remain anonymous. The Trust will summarise its contents and present the survey to the DBE.
Please use one of these methods to make a submission.
Just to recap:
1) If you do not need any assistance: please submit as soon as possible.
2) If you need some help, and you are willing to send a submission in your own name: Please write your submission using our guidelines and send it as soon as possible.
3) If you would like to keep your details anonymous: Write and submit your submission using our guidelines for an ANONYMOUS submission (in the Step-by-Step Guide).
Please keep informed by joining the Tuisonderwys Yahoo group, the BELABill and/or Pestalozzi Trust Facebook groups.
The Trust is trying to keep all members fully informed, and we try to manage the bouncing and blacklisted addresses, but if at all possible, please also try to join one of the other communication channels to keep up to date with developments.
WORRIED ABOUT BELA?
By Karin van Oostrum (CEO, Pestalozzi Trust)
BELA is not a sudden tsunami. It is the outcome of a steadily rising tide of increasing government intervention in all education, over the past 20 years: state, public, private and home education. The state wants more control over its population, and would like to see a uniform end product as the end result of all the different education systems.
You now have a choice: either you let yourself be engulfed by the tide, or put on a life jacket (Pestalozzi Trust) and you swim. Either you wait for the state to get their house in order (which may take 50 years or more), and to provide good education for all of its citizens, or you do the right thing – and act in the best interests of the children whom God has placed in your care.
Will it now become illegal to homeschool?
No, BELA cannot make home schooling illegal; it will only make it more difficult to do, if it becomes law. It was an immense battle to legalise home schooling in 1996, and we still have very strong international support.
Should I now register?
BELA does not change the registration requirements. Should BELA become law, every home educating parent will as always have to decide: Is it going to be in my child’s best interest to register? Will the registration requirements make it possible for me to teach my child according to his/her best interests, without jeopardizing my and my child’s privacy?
When is BELA going to be implemented?
According to the legal representatives of the DBE that we met with, it will be a very long time before the submissions regarding BELA will have been handled. If BELA needs to change, the various departmental and parliamentarian committees and structures first have to approve it before it can become law. It is difficult to say when, but it seems as if it will not become law within the next 6 months, and probably much later.
Should I change my curriculum?
You as a parent should in the first place choose a curriculum that works for your child. If your child needs something different, then you should change. This is your first task and privilege: to care for your child. You therefore have the choice: am I going to act in the best interest of the state, or in the best interest of my child?
How will I defend my home education?
- Inform yourself on what the LAW says, and inform yourself on what your RIGHTS are. The constitution and a multitude of international instruments of human rights protect your rights. But a right is of no use if you don’t use it.
- Join the Trust, if you are not a member yet, for peace of mind.Take part in campaigns, share with other homeschoolers, and help each other.
- Give your child a good education. In the first and last instance that will always be your very best defense: that you will be able to show that you have given your child a good education, according to his best interests.
To update our members and the public on legal and practical aspects, we offer seminars in Pretoria. We also discuss how a child learns, and shares from our 30 years of experience with home schooling. Please book with email@example.com.
Seminar for Small Schools/Seminaar vir Skole: 11/11/2017
Home Schooling with Confidence (English): 18/11/2017
Tuisonderwys met Vertroue (Afrikaans): 2/12/2017
Increase in membership fees: NEW MEMBERS: 1/3/2018
For the past 20 years the Pestalozzi Trust has increased its membership fees once every five years. The next increase date is 1 March 2018. The membership fee then rises for all new members who join the Trust. If you are not a member yet, join NOW at the lower fee, and remain on the discount fee for the remainder of your membership life!
PLEASE NOTE: Existing members who have already joined the Trust by then, and who renew their membership in time, remain on the fee level at which they joined the Trust.
At present the membership fee for Standard Membership is R1080 per family per annum (for 12 months from the date of joining the Trust), for a family whose children have been out of school for more than 3 months already. Families who join the Trust before removing their children or within 3 months of removing them from school, pay R960 per family per annum (for 12 months from the date of joining). The membership fee for Associate Membership (for families whose children are no longer or not yet liable for compulsory schooling) is R560 per family per annum.
The new membership fee from the 1st of March 2018 is R1200 per family per annum. From the 1st of March families who join the Trust within 3 months of removing their children from school pay R1080 per family per annum. The membership fee for Associate Membership (for families whose children are not yet or no longer liable for compulsory schooling) remains R560 per family.
Cottage Schools and Centres
The Pestalozzi Trust is well aware that the cottage schools and learning centres, and the parents of these cottage learners, are eager to contribute to the protest against the BELA Bill.
The BELA Bill does not directly address cottage schools, but the issue of cottage schools and centres urgently needs to be addressed.
While cottage schools and centres are regarded as unregistered independent schools, they have no protection in law, and neither have the learners in these schools and centres, nor the parents of these learners.
It is a cause for concern that while the DBE is fully aware of the phenomenon of cottage schools, no effort has been made to consult with cottage schools or centres prior to the publication of the BELA Bill. This is a major oversight in the consultation process, which should be fair and transparant.
The Pestalozzi Trust supports the cottage schools and centres in their protest against this oversight in the consultation process, and against the failure to provide for cottage schools and centres in the law. To be updated on what the law says about cottage schools and centres, you may attend the small schools seminar held on the 11th of November, in Pretoria. Please book beforehand. Info: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources for Cottage Schools and Centres to make a Submission
- Step-by-step Guide to help Cottage Schools comment on the BELA Bill
- Template for Cottage Schools to use to comment
- Template for cottage school parents to use to comment.
Please BCC your comments to email@example.com so that we can keep track of the submissions.
Thank you for your support and willingness to help change the educational climate in South Africa! If you are not a member of the Trust, apply for membership of the Trust for your school or centre!