Dear Phindile Ngcobo, and Dr. Simelane – in your capacity as representatives of the Department of Basic Education
Thank you for your patience, in this extra time I have consulted with various South Africans practicing SDE/NL from several provinces, ranging from age 12 up, from several different religious, linguistic and ‘racial’ backgrounds and gender identifications; I have also discussed the situation with a few international colleagues.
I do not claim to represent Self-Directed Education/Natural Learning/Unschooling in South Africa since it is currently impossible for anyone to claim such representative status: there are currently no national or provincial associations with any legitimacy, for this category of education.
As stated by Minister Motshekga on previous occasions and reiterated by yourself Ms Ngcobo at the Home Education meeting on Monday 17th August 2020, the DBE’s current mandate is strictly for education that is defined by curriculum, performance, assessment and monitoring. As such, Self-Directed Education/Natural Learning (SDE/NL), which can not be defined by these parameters, does not align with the DBE’s mandate. To try to adjust SDE/NL to align with such a mandate would render it no longer SDE/NL. I would like to acknowledge the considerable effort that you Ms Ngcobo took to assure us that ‘the DBE is not here to make anyone’s lives difficult’, and that the DBE acknowledges the right of families to choose educational approaches according to the best interests of each individual young person.
On the other hand, the fact that the DBE’s limited mandate leads to policies and procedures that cannot extend to oversight of the SDE/NL sector leaves a question on how to engage in terms of the duties of the state.
It is therefore respectfully suggested that in order for South Africa to comply with the requirements of the Abidjan Principles for government to not only provide public education but also to allow for educational pluralism as well as to oversee all types of ‘private’ education to prevent educational abuse, that I and others are willing to actively assist the Dept. of Social Services in setting up an independently selected Youth Ombudsperson’s office (which South Africa has been in need of for many purposes for quite some time now) which can include a sub-office for representatively elected Education Ombudspersons in order to prevent abuse in all educational sectors including those which it is not realistic for the DBE to be concerned with. We would be happy to have you introduce us to the appropriate people in this regard.
Alternatively, should the DBE mandate become extended so that Self-Directed Education/Natural Learning/Unschooling can become part of their direct concern, then I await your invitation, presumably once your current crisis resolves, to a series of truly participatory meetings (that will obviously include extensive involvement of people of all ages in order to be legitimate) specifically concerning how SDE/NL, thereby being accepted by the DBE as being a valid form of education not defined by curriculum and assessment, can nonetheless be registered with your department in ways that are genuinely in the interests of each and all of the young people concerned.
Je’anna Clements (Psych. Hons)
Author: Helping The Butterfly Hatch: How Self-Directed Education Works and Why (Forthcoming Dec 2020)
International consultant-observers to the sending of this mail
– Derry Hannam, B.Ed (Oxon) D.Phil – United Kingdom school inspector (retired), consultant, researcher and advisor to the Council of Europe and the governments of the United Kingdom, Malta and Finland in Education for Democratic Citizenship (EDC)
– Katy Zago, ALLI-asbl (Luxembourg Association for the Freedom of Education)
– Bertrand Stern, initiator of the film CaRaBa and philosopher of educational issues, Germany