On-going rejections of application for registration by home educators in KZN have led the Pestalozzi Trust to take legal action against the MEC for Education in KZN. This is the first challenge against the rigid implementation of the Policy on Home Education by Provincial Education Departments.
Rigid enforcement would be challenged
When the Policy on Home Education was published in 2018 the Trust made it clear that if any education department enforced the policy in a rigid fashion the Trust would challenge that in the courts. The Policy does not have the force of a law like regulations or the BELA Bill will have once it has become law. Officials must implement the Policy in line with the SA Schools Act and in a flexible manner. More importantly, even laws and regulations must always protect the “Best Interests of the Child”.
Up until this point it hasn’t proved necessary to go to court to challenge the implementation of the Policy because the Trust has successfully intervened on a number of occasions to ensure that home schoolers who were attempting to register were able to register even if they did not meet all the requirements of the Policy. For example, the Trust has assisted families to register who were not using the South African NCS/CAPS curriculum.
Rejections in KZN since November 2021
However, starting in late November 2021, a problem began to develop in KwaZulu-Natal. At first a trickle and then a flood of home schoolers had their applications for home education turned down. By early 2022 it became apparent that we were dealing with the largest number of applications for home education turned down ever.
The Trust contacted the KZNDOE (KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education) and the national Department of Basic Education (DBE) to find out why this was happening.
The KZNDOE was rejecting all applications for home education from home schoolers who were using online schools. Any application which mentioned “online”, “school” or “academy” was being rejected.
Possible reason for rejections
The KZNDOE indicated that this issue came to their attention because a number of learners attending cottage schools, micro-schools, home school centres or tutor centres had been applying for registration as home schoolers. The Trust has regularly warned that those who attend these institutions on a full-time basis should not attempt to register as home educators. The Trust supports these small institutions, acts on their behalf to ensure the law is changed to accommodate them and in the interim assists them to register as independent schools but we advise that learners who attend these institutions should not attempt to register for home education.
Online schools applications rejected
Whatever the cause for the start of the flood of these rejections, by the middle of 2022 the KZNDOE was taking the position that home schoolers using online schools would not be allowed to register and these applications would continue to be rejected until a new national framework was in place to regulate online education. It should be stated that online providers have been begging the DBE for many years to create regulations accommodating online schools. As usual, innocent learners have to pay the price for the DBE’s incompetence.
The KZNDOE eventually received support from the DBE in turning down registrations, but thankfully some other provinces have continued to register online learners for home education.
Refusal fever rampant in KZN
However, the crisis was to worsen, as refusal fever is now running rampant in KZN and the rejections now appear to include learners using any form of online curriculum, but also curricula that are not online at all. Perhaps not all are rejected but we are aware of a number of rejections where learners are using curricula that have been on the market for over 15 years and are well-recognised brand names. What makes this more concerning is that many home schoolers who use these curricula have been registered over the last fifteen to twenty years.
This is yet another warning of how an education department can make a proverbial 180 degree turn and where arguments, pleas, legal letters and threats will not move the officials once their mind is made up and their “seniors” support them. Unfortunately, then the problem can only be solved by you trying to fly under the radar, changing the way you home school, stopping home schooling (throughout the KZNDOE officials have been very “kind” in offering to the Trust to place the learners in schools) or by expensive court action.
MEC taken to court
The Trust is extremely grateful to the three brave families who have decided that they will not be pushed around and are willing to take the MEC to court.
On December 6, 2022 the first part of the families’ application will be heard in the High Court. This is an administrative action aimed at forcing the MEC for Education to respond to the appeals of the families.
If you are refused registration you have a right of appeal:
“(5) If the HOD declines the application to register the learner for home education, s/he shall in writing, inform the parent:
(a) stating the reason(s) for declining the application; and
(b) of the right to appeal to the MEC within 14 days of receiving the notice.
(6) The MEC should take all reasonable steps to respond to the appeal within 30 days of receipt thereof.”
The Trust has assisted several families who were refused registration to appeal. Unfortunately, the MEC has not responded to these appeals, despite repeated reminders and lawyer’s letters, and therefore the Trust has had no option other than to go to court to force the MEC to do her job.
How can I help?
- Please join us in praying for the success of our court case, and for the protection of homeschooling families in South Africa, especially in KZN.
- If you are not already a member, join the Trust.
- Members can encourage friends and family to do the same. The Trust can only take these actions because of the support of our loyal members. Our heartfelt thanks to our loyal members.
- If you decide to register, ensure you keep a copy of your application and proof that it was submitted. This can be either an email or a delivery receipt etc. that shows the date of sending and delivery. Never hand over documents or applications without proof that you have done so. If you are not emailing or couriering but handing in an application at a government office, take a copy of your application form, ask the official to stamp it and write the date of delivery next to the stamp. Keep these documents safe. Having this to hand will make it easier for us to help you.
Thank you for your loyal support in the battle to protect home learners’ right to education!