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Pestalozzi Trust meets with Minister

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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 Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill (BELA Bill).
 
We were pleased that 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. The Pestalozzi Trust is very thankful that the DBE has agreed to engage with the home education movement. We will focus our effort on providing additional persuasive arguments and do our best to ensure that the BELA Bill does not infringe on the freedom of parents to choose the kind of education that is in the best interest of their children.
 
The BELA Bill originally was published for public comment for the first time in October 2017. If the amendments proposed in this bill would become law, it would transform home education into an unaffordable form of state education at home. It is therefore no wonder that the home education movement reacted with an avalanche of objections to the Bill.
 
The Pestalozzi Trust regularly communicated with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and requested to engage with the task team who were evaluating the objections, in order to clarify possible misunderstandings. Unfortunately no such opportunity was granted.
 
In November 2017, the DBE also published a draft Policy on Home Education (PHE) for public comment, and again the home education movement reacted with an avalanche of objections. Requests to engage with the policy task team were ignored and the Policy on Home Education 2018 was published in November 2018, without significant changes.
 
The enforcement of such a Policy can cause conflict between parents and officials when it guides officials to unlawfully interfere in the home education of a family. For this reason, the Pestalozzi Trust decided to challenge the policy by means of a request for an administrative review of the policy, through the Pretoria High court, using a top legal team.

After more than two years of our regular requests and additional comments on the BELA Bill receiving scant attention the Pestalozzi Trust received the latest version of the BELA Bill on 13 December 2019, and was requested to provide comments and attend a meeting with the Minister of Basic Education on 27 January 2020. The Pestalozzi Trust decided to use this opportunity to provide an even more detailed submission than provided previously. Members of the Pestalozzi executive and lawyers worked through the holiday period and compiled a submission with the following items included:

  • Reasons why the regulation of home education should not be included in the SA Schools Act. Since home education is something totally different from school education, it does not make sense to regulate home education through an act that was intended to regulate schools. Many problems can be resolved if home education is regulated through a separate alternative education act.
  • Clause by clause comments, as well as alternative formulations on all the sections in the BELA Bill that affect home education. A total of 42 clausal comments were submitted.
  • A senior counsel opinion on 3 critical contested points in the BELA Bill. These points: the requirements to register for every phase, the provision for home visits and an imprisonment sentence. Due to time constraints the advocates working with us were unable to provide opinions on other controversial points, but we continue to work with them in bringing key issues to the DBE’s attention.

Currently the BELA Bill is still being reviewed by the DBE. After the BELA Bill has been finalized, it will be sent to cabinet for approval. Once approved by cabinet, it will be tabled in parliament. When the Bill is before parliament, there will be the opportunity for public comments. There might be the opportunity to submit written comments and attend public hearings. We are hoping that public hearings will be held in the provinces. For more information on how to take part in these activities, visit the website www.liberty-in-learning.org and join the “Liberty in Learning” Facebook group.
 
Once the Bill has been approved by both houses of parliament, it is given to the president to sign.  At that stage we can directly petition the president not to sign the Bill into law. Only once it has been signed by the president will it become law. This process can take between two to four years.
 
However, even if the BELA Bill is signed into law with restrictive conditions, the Pestalozzi Trust will continue to protect the freedom of home educators by challenging all attempts to enforce unreasonable conditions through the new legislation.
 
None of the above would be possible without the financial support and prayers of our members. Your support made it possible to challenge the policy and to submit legal opinions by senior council. Thank you for your invaluable support and encouragement

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