Over the last five years the home education movement has made significant strides. These build on the more than 25 years of effort that the movement has made. The Trust has been able to take a leading role in supporting the movement to achieve a number of successes. We can only do this because of the support we receive from you our members. Each and every member and everyone who was involved in these activities and campaigns has played a vital role in these successes. Freedom is never won overnight and there are many steps and battles on the way. A recap of some of the key achievements of the last five years follows.
* 2017 – BELA Bill Campaign: After the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill was published without any prior warning in October 2017, the Trust lobbied the Deputy-Minister for an extension to the submission deadline. We argued that the lack of prior consultation with home educators has disadvantaged us. We received a letter from the Deputy-Minister stating that while he cannot grant a general extension the DBE will consider all late submissions received through the Trust. Home educators made over 1000 submissions on the BELA Bill. The Trust also developed an innovative legal solution and negotiated with the DBE to ensure that any Home Educator who would like to make a submission can do so via an anonymous process that the Trust administered. In the past it was not possible to submit anonymous comments, but thanks to the Trust the voices of anonymous home educators could be heard. Home educators who make up less than 1% of the school population generated 20% of submissions on the Bill! Review of the submissions took the DBE over two years. Read about the reaction of the DBE here.
*28 November 2017. The Trust worked with Cape Home Educators (CHE) to ensure a number of home educators attend the parliamentary Portfolio Committee for Basic Education’s (PCBE) committee meeting on the BELA Bill. Bouwe van der Eems and Christopher Cordeiro met briefly with the Deputy-Minister of Education. The Trust deepened existing relationships with parliamentarians and forged new ones. During the PCBE meeting the DBE Director General Mr Mathanzima Mweli stated ‘the word avalanche would not describe’ the submissions they had received ‘and that he had never seen it in his career in public service. The Deputy-Minister extended the submission date for the general public to the 10th January 2018.
* July 2018 CEM Campaign: A high-placed, friendly source informed the Trust on Friday afternoon on the 13th of July, 2018 that the Policy of Home Education would be presented to MECs in the following week on the 19th. Over the weekend the Trust developed an automated write-in campaign to lobby the CEM (Council of Education Ministers) on the Policy. This is similar to the system used by groups like Dear SA. The office of the Minister received hundreds of letters or calls in the course of that week. The DBE described home educators as “spammers”, after which Cheryllyn Dudley (MP) made a public statement calling the DBE to order for calling concerned citizens “spammers”.
* October 2018: The Trust encouraged homeschoolers to have meetings with constituency heads and explain their concerns about the BELA Bill and the Policy on Home Education. You may read here, here and here of some of the meetings that were held, following this call.
If you want to organise such a meeting especially in the lead up to the Local Government Elections you can read about how to do this here.
* 3 November 2018: Victor Sabbe from the Cape Home Educators and Bouwe van der Eems of the Pestalozzi Trust had a meeting with the Western Cape MEC for education, the Hon. Debbie Schafer. The meeting was experienced as a fruitful first step to build a bridge between government and the home education movement.
* 30 April 2019: DA leader Mmusi Maimane took time out of his hectic pre-election schedule to meet with home educators to listen to concerns about the Policy on Home Education and the BELA Bill, and to clarify the DA’s position on home education. This meeting was the result of the hard work of home schooling mom, Chrisna Brand. Chrisna responded to the Pestalozzi Trust’s call for all home educators to engage with political parties before the elections and persisted until through the offices of DA MP Sonja Boshoff she secured a meeting with the party leader!
* 2019: Since the inputs of small schools were not considered when drafting either the BELA Bill or the Policy on Home Education, the Pestalozzi Trust took the initiative to assist small schools, cottage schools and learning centres to establish an association for alternative educational institutions. The Association for Alternative Education continues to grow.
* 17-19 Oct 2019: The first African Home Education Indaba was held in Pretoria with representatives from South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Namibia, the US, Canada and Russia participating. Officials from the WCED also attended.
* Nov. 2019: The Trust sponsored a colloquium addressed by leading international academic Prof. Dr Jan De Groof on freedom in and of education at the Centre for the Book in Cape Town. The event was attended by leading education sector NGOs. Home education was placed on the radar of these NGOs. The Trust continues to develop its relationship with these groups.
* Dec. 2019: The Minister of Basic Education invited the Trust to make additional submissions on the BELA Bill. The Trust provided a detailed submission backed by a legal opinion that addresses three issues, the dubious constitutionality of home visits, inappropriate nature of the penalty provisions in the policy and the illegality of the re-registration process. Counsel argued that forcing registration every three years amounts to a cancellation of registration without due process. The DBE conceded this and amended the BELA Bill to allow for registration only once and notification per phase. This is a significant win for home educators as parents will no longer have to apply for permission to home educate every phase once the BELA Bill is passed. The Pestalozzi Trust also argued that home education should not be regulated in terms of the SA Schools Act, since home education happens outside the school system. The DBE acknowledged that this idea had merit and could be addressed in the future.
* Jan. 2020: On the 27th of January, 2020, the Pestalozzi Trust attended a meeting with the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga. The Pestalozzi Trust is one of the stakeholders who had been invited by the Minister to discuss the latest 2019 draft version of the BELA Bill. The Minister dedicated an hour to discussing home education and listening to the inputs of the Trust and her senior legal officials’ comments on our submission. The meeting took place in a positive and constructive spirit. The DBE provided feedback on some salient points in our submission which they conceded and requested the Pestalozzi Trust provide additional comments and alternative formulations in the light of the feedback provided.
* 28 Feb 2020: The Pestalozzi Trust attended a Roundtable on the implementation of the Home Education Policy and handed over a memorandum of members’ concerns and questions.
* Quarter 2 – 2020: The Trust collaborated with home education associations to establish the Liberty in Learning Coalition. The Liberty in Learning Coalition is a group of associations, individuals, and home education curriculum providers in South Africa who share a common goal and are working for greater freedom in education.
* 20 October 2020: The DBE provided feedback to the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education (PCBE) on the progress of the BELA Bill. The last time that the DBE provided feedback on the BELA Bill to the PCBE was in November 2018, and during that meeting a lot of pressure was put on the DBE to consult with stakeholders. According to the feedback in the recent meeting the efforts of the Pestalozzi Trust resulted in more changes to the BELA Bill than any other stakeholder could achieve.
* 9-13 Nov 2020: The Global Home Education Conference 2020 took place online. Karin van Oostrum, Executive Officer of the Trust, serves on the board of the GHEX, the Global Home Education Exchange. Karin was instrumental in organising the widest participation ever by South African and African representatives in the history of the GHEX. Be sure to watch the session in the GHEC replays featuring the African Alumni. Our alumni are the best argument for home education.
2021 is shaping up to be another year of intense activity. A follow-up nugget on all that has happened in just the last three months will go out in the next few weeks