Survey Submission -Public Consultation on Human Rights Guiding Principles for States’ Obligations Regarding Private Education

Here is one set of answers submitted:

“Does the text adequately address the topic of potential negative impacts of private educational operators on the right to education?”

In my opinion the text does not “adequately address” the topic of potential negative impacts of private educational operators on the right to education, but not because the text has failed in the way implied by the wording of this question.

The problem is rather, that all kinds of ‘private actors’ are lumped together as if their negative impact were identical and clearly established, and as if a single set of state regulations could appropriately address them all.

In truth there is an incalculable difference between Curro holdings and a small private Reggio Emilia-inspired co-op, or a democratic self-directed learning community whose fees are entirely set by income and have no lower limit. They are completely different in terms of both their ‘public good’ and ‘educational freedom’ impacts on the enjoyment of the right to education.

When reviewing input about the potential negative impacts of private education, it is important to consider whence this input comes. For example, in South Africa the government opportunistically promotes a stereotype of racist white Afrikaans Christian fundamentalist home-schoolers, while the truth of the boom in home-education is far more diverse and has primarily to do with downright dangerous and abusive (as well as educationally inadequate) public facilities, along with the lack of alignment between state education and General Comment #1.

It is popular rhetoric for state-employees to claim that private actors damage the states’ ability to provide quality public education, in line with the current general culture of scapegoating others for their own shortcomings. In South Africa we see state outsourcing to international tech profiteers http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/8054/6585 go hand in hand with the attempted persecution of parents and micro-facilities (Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill, and current Draft Home-school policy) that choose approaches better aligned with General Comment #1 than state regulations permit, (to bring more data calves into the field they’ve promised to sell?)

The current version of the Guiding Principles might be able to help with the former, but it will worsen the latter. With an overriding emphasis on states’ obligations to regulate and monitor, phase out and liquidate private education, the smallest actors will be the easiest targets, and the smallest people will suffer. The Guiding Principles as they currently stand can – and probably will – be used by political careerists as weapons in their distractionist witch-hunts.

It is critical we don’t fall into utilitarian assumptions. We cannot afford to assume that states, just by dint of being states, are generally ethical best-practice educational operators superior to private operators. State education even if free and universal, is also capable of human rights abuses. The right to ‘universally free’ education is only one aspect of the right to education and to primarily emphasise that as being key for states to upholding the right to education, is to invite authoritarian and minimalist practises that are easy for states to administer and justify to MDG monitors but hellish for individual children’s actual education and well-being.

It is necessary not only to say that
States must ensure the availability of prompt, accessible, effective, and independent grievance and redress mechanisms, including where necessary, judicial remedies, allowing any rights-holder or, where possible, public interest groups to seek remedies for the failure of a private educational operator to comply with the applicable State regulations. (p16, D)
But to also say that
States must ensure the availability of prompt, accessible, effective, and independent grievance and redress mechanisms, including where necessary, judicial remedies, allowing any rights-holder or, where possible, public interest groups to seek remedies for the failure of public education policy and practice to respect, protect and promote human rights in general and the right to education as described in General Comment #1, in particular.

Please indicate the potential positive contributions of the private sectors that are not adequately addressed by the text, with examples to illustrate it, and if possible suggestion of how the text could address them.

The text as it stands assumes that all private educational operators are huge and profit-oriented, effectively rendering invisible the other end of the spectrum, such as home-educating parents (mentioned once in a footnote). Completely invisible in this text are private micro-facilities. While each one of these facilities is in itself small, their numbers are growing rapidly and they account for a larger share of the private education sector each year. Especially in under-resourced and rural areas, some such operators may even be able to develop services and networks that can eventually be integrated into new and improved public education offerings.

Currently, the Guiding Principles currently seem biased against private actors in education.

This is not surprising when we consider the skewed directive provided in the research guide associated with the development of these guidelines: “Generally, you are looking for evidence that the existence or growth of private education (or ‘privatisation’) is having a NEGATIVE effect on the enjoyment of human rights.” http://globalinitiative-escr.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/RTE_GIESCR_Methodological_Guide_Privatisation_and_Human_Rights_2016_E.pdf p4 (emphasis mine)

I have personally encountered a number of children who experienced significant abuse of their rights in state schools, who experienced a positive effect on the enjoyment of their rights when escaping into private education. We can’t know that if we don’t even look for it when we conduct research. Legitimate research helps us understand what IS so that we can make more informed decisions. It is not meant to selectively help us justify a chosen agenda.

I suspect that this blatantly biased approach stems from a primary concern with large, often destructive, profit-oriented edu-business in concert with state-abdication of responsibility for quality public education.

However, it is important that these Guiding Principles do not sabotage their legitimacy with a text tailored exclusively to this concern, thereby failing to address other more valuable categories of private actors in education, and the enjoyment of their rights that children experience by their existence.

Private educational operators such as parents and micro-facilities, depending on the approach used, can improve the realisation of the right to education by paying attention to the individual best interests of the child. They are actually able to support the“the holistic development of the full potential of the child” in reality rather than in theory – something that is almost impossible for a centralised and standardised state education system, or a franchised edu-business.

It is critical to realise that this benefit is vastly reduced if these micro-operators are constrained by ‘norms and standards’ created for macro-facilities: such as age-related grades, set curricula and standardised tests.

Private education of the micro and grass-roots kind can also improve the realisation of the right to education by:
1) giving sanctuary to children who suffer in bigger institutions both public and private – inter alia ‘highly sensitive’ children who find regular school environments overwhelming; left-handed and other ‘slow’ workers who need flexible time structures; children who are typical bully-targets; creative, energetic, and self-directed children; children with specific talents, and children with strengths that are mostly non-academic. Given the nature of children and their needs, it is a moot point whether any child at all is actually suited to education in a big institution. (It would be long-winded to provide examples/case descriptions for all of these here, but I can do so on request.)
2) providing hope for ‘drop-outs’.
3) providing a source of grass-roots political empowerment, social diversity, community involvement and empowerment through use of volunteer staff and collaborative resourcing.
4) providing living examples of child-friendly environments to inspire best-practice initiatives at state level, for example developing structures for child-participation in education.
5) providing innovative and experimental spaces for the evolution of educational practices better suited to the nature of children, as well as to the digital age.
6) through all of the above, keeping states on their toes and pushing states to improve the quality of public education offerings.

The text needs to address this by protecting small private educational operators rather than giving states a mandate or even imperative to wipe them out – which the text currently does.

There is a budding exploration of the heutagogical approach to education precisely since it is particularly suited to digital-age learning. My own experience is that heutagogy when used with children is also optimal for moving away from a paternalistic approach towards mutual respect and genuine empowerment. Since it is not yet widely understood that heutagogy is effective, appropriate and empowering for children and not only adults, families and facilities adopting heutagogical approaches, are particularly vulnerable to well-meaning but crippling interference.

One possibility would be to include explicit special protection for these forms of private education, for example the text that follows:

“Special Protection for Child-Friendly Private Education that Differs in Approach”
States must recognise that certain forms of private education have heutagogical approaches that are significantly different to the pedagogical approach that may be currently chosen by the particular state. Where private educational actors adopt child-friendly approaches that align with international human rights law except that they do not align with current state norms and standards, these private actors shall be exempted from state regulation.

The practitioners of each defined approach should be encouraged to form their own International, National and Regional guiding bodies, and to clearly articulate and promulgate their own specific best-practise norms and standards. For example, Democratic schools should be encouraged to define norms and standards for Democratic education, Montessori schools to do so for Montessori education, Self-Directed Education for SDE facilities, Reggio Emilia-inspired schools for Reggio education, and so on.

States also must recognise that home-education is only “home-schooling” when parents choose to home-educate a child using norms and standards related to pedagogical tools such as curricula, progression through ‘grades’, and quantifiable assessments. Parents who home-educate using a defined alternative approach must be guided by the best-practice guidelines, norms and standards set by the guiding bodies of their chosen style of education, rather than being compelled to comply with state norms and standards.”

It could be stipulated that exempt facilities demonstrably align with General Comment #1 and human rights in general; that in particular they practice inclusivity and non-discrimination; that they make arrangements for a ratio of students of different income levels; and that their size does not exceed 200 students.

Additional remedies are suggested below in other sections.

Please indicate your suggestion for important issues or guiding principles that you think are missing to address the role of private actors in education in line with human rights law, including where it would fit.

1) The Guiding Principles currently present no explicit guideline for dealing with small private educational operators ranging from home-educating parents through community co-ops to small private schools.

Since footnote 69 on p12 stipulates that these are included under the term ‘private educational operators’ that means that states will be required to regulate, register, and monitor these micro-operators right along with large edu-business franchises.

A state like South Africa that lacks capacity, currently uses two tactics – scare micro-operators into shutting down, and where that fails, pretend they don’t exist.

The vast majority of SA home-educators do not even try to register, because the registration requirements ignore the right to educational freedom, plus it’s easier to just disappear instead. So-called public consultation processes to improve regulations on the topic have been tokenistic and illegitimate and have led nowhere.

Let’s consider that many established independent schools that now have 400 students or more, opened with less than 20. Yet in South Africa today, the state currently offers no way for micro-facilities to register at all. This renders every small alternative private startup up and community co-op “not legal” for no other reason than red tape.

This not only erodes true educational freedom but also further biases the private education sector in favour of big, profit-oriented enterprises who open their doors already big enough for state requirements.

SUGGESTED REMEDY:
Insert into c) Obligation to regulate non-state actors p12
“Where any given private educational operator caters to less than 200 students in total, rather than being required to directly monitor such facilities, the state shall require such private educational operators to form their own local and regional and where viable, national associations, which shall provide the state with collated annual reports.

These local and regional associations shall ensure that all registered members are educated in, and undertake to align with international human rights law pertaining to education, children’s rights, as well as general human rights.

The state shall provide publicly available channels accessible to all children and parents, for reporting human rights abuses and educational grievances that might otherwise fall below the state radar.

Where any given private educational operator caters to a number of students greater than 200 in total States must use all appropriate means, including, particularly, the adoption of regulatory measures, to prevent the infringement of the right to education in the context of the involvement of private actors in education….”

2) It is critically important to stress that states are held to the ALL same standards as private actors, and to prevent states using private education as a scapegoat to distract attention from or excuse state failures.

For example, “Privacy and data collection, ensuring that no private data be used for commercial purposes” is stipulated as something states must regulate with regard to private actors, and it is important that states don’t use this as a way to simply keep unethical opportunities for their own nefarious benefit. For example, it already seems that South Africa may be abusing children’s data privacy in public education, https://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/8054 yet these guidelines as they currently stand only demand that the state stop private schools from following suit.

Likewise, given the content-heavy CAPS state curriculum in South Africa at present there is a growing accusation that “pressure for educational achievement or emphasis on formal academic success” does currently “undermine the right of the child to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural life and the arts”. If this is so, then holding private actors to the current state norms and guidelines would de-facto cause problems the Guidelines seek to remedy.

SUGGESTED REMEDY:
Insert on p11 at the end of 4.d as indicated below:
Assessment and monitoring of public education systems
States must regulate their own activities and put in place all necessary mechanisms to monitor implementation and decision-making related to education and provide appropriate remedies where the right to education has not been complied with. “Every regulation and standard that applies to private education applies even more to public education, and the state must ensure that it consistently presents a best-practice example for private education to follow. Where limited resources force the state to choose between bringing state education into compliance with its own standards, or bringing private education actors into compliance, the state must prioritise correcting its own facilities first.”

1) The Guiding Principles currently present no explicit guideline for dealing with small private educational operators ranging from home-educating parents through community co-ops to small private schools.

Since footnote 69 on p12 stipulates that these are included under the term ‘private educational operators’ that means that states will be required to regulate, register, and monitor these micro-operators right along with large edu-business franchises.

A state like South Africa that lacks capacity, currently uses two tactics – scare micro-operators into shutting down, and where that fails, pretend they don’t exist.

Many, maybe even most SA home-educators do not even try to register, because the registration requirements ignore the right to educational freedom, plus it’s easier to just disappear instead. So-called public consultation processes to improve regulations on the topic have been tokenistic and illegitimate and have led nowhere.

Let’s consider that many established independent schools that now have 400 students or more, opened with less than 20. Yet in South Africa today, the state currently offers no way for micro-facilities to register at all. This renders every small alternative private startup up and community co-op “not legal” for no other reason than red tape.

This not only erodes true educational freedom but also further biases the private education sector in favour of big, profit-oriented enterprises who open their doors already big enough for state requirements.

SUGGESTED REMEDY:
Insert into c) Obligation to regulate non-state actors p12
“Where any given private educational operator caters to less than 200 students in total, rather than being required to directly monitor such facilities, the state shall require such private educational operators to form their own local and regional and where viable, national associations, which shall provide the state with collated annual reports.

These local and regional associations shall ensure that all registered members are educated in, and undertake to align with international human rights law pertaining to education, children’s rights, as well as general human rights.

The state shall provide publicly available channels accessible to all children and parents, for reporting human rights abuses and educational grievances that might otherwise fall below the state radar.

Where any given private educational operator caters to a number of students greater than 200 in total States must use all appropriate means, including, particularly, the adoption of regulatory measures, to prevent the infringement of the right to education in the context of the involvement of private actors in education….”

2) It is critically important to stress that states are held to the ALL same standards as private actors, and to prevent states using private education as a scapegoat to distract attention from or excuse state failures.

For example, “Privacy and data collection, ensuring that no private data be used for commercial purposes” is stipulated as something states must regulate with regard to private actors, and it is important that states don’t use this as a way to simply keep unethical opportunities for their own nefarious benefit. For example, it already seems that South Africa may be abusing children’s data privacy in public education, https://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/8054 yet these guidelines as they currently stand only demand that the state stop private schools from following suit.

Likewise, given the content-heavy CAPS state curriculum in South Africa at present there is a growing accusation that “pressure for educational achievement or emphasis on formal academic success” does currently “undermine the right of the child to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural life and the arts”. If this is so, then holding private actors to the current state norms and guidelines would de-facto cause problems the Guidelines seek to remedy.

SUGGESTED REMEDY:
Insert on p11 at the end of 4.d as indicated below:
Assessment and monitoring of public education systems
States must regulate their own activities and put in place all necessary mechanisms to monitor implementation and decision-making related to education and provide appropriate remedies where the right to education has not been complied with. “Every regulation and standard that applies to private education applies even more to public education, and the state must ensure that it consistently presents a best-practice example for private education to follow. Where limited resources force the state to choose between bringing state education into compliance with its own standards, or bringing private education actors into compliance, the state must prioritise correcting its own facilities first.”

3.There is a growing ‘fashion’ of drugging children in the name of education which must be considered an urgent and mounting children’s rights crisis. This may be more prevalent in private than public education, because parents who can afford private education are more likely to afford psychiatrists and medication, but I am not aware of the status of this issue in circumstances where public healthcare is well-resourced.

There is enough initial evidence that ‘ADHD’, anxious, depressed and behaviourally challenged children who are rescued from structured educational settings and given appropriate support in more self-directed settings can learn and thrive without drugs, that further research is urgently indicated. It is not ethical to continue by default to force these children to remain in conventional education and be drugged in order to do so.

SUGGESTED REMEDY:
Insert into Minimum Standards as indicated below:
No child may be drugged in the name of education, whether diagnosed by a psychiatrist or not, for ADD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, behavioural issues, or any other problem, unless every other avenue, including alternative forms of education such as smaller, more informal and democratic environments as well as alternative educational approaches possibly more suited to the child’s temperament, have been exhausted.

Please indicate the specific examples or cases of vulnerable, marginalised or disadvantaged groups that are not adequately addressed by the text, and make suggestion if you can on how the text could be improved to address these situations in line with human rights law.

1) There is a new and rapidly growing group of marginalised children – the drugged. A suggestion to remedy this was made in the previous section.

2) The assumption that all education of children must automatically involve pedagogy and a fixed curriculum discriminates against forms of education that are a) more indigenous and traditional and b) more innovative.

Given that alternative educators and families often already feel the need to ‘fly under the radar’ to avoid persecution, the Guiding Principles could unwittingly contribute to the further marginalisation of these children and their families.

There is a tendency for WEIRD (White Educated Industrial Rich Democratic) people to see ourselves as ‘normal’ and assume the validity of our cultural assumptions and superstitions. There is no good reason for international human rights law to uphold an assumption that colonial-style schooling is the ideal or even only way that the right to education can or should be realised.

Again, there is enough initial evidence that less structured, informal educational approaches can better meet the needs of children in general and the children of under-resourced, developing countries in particular, that more research is urgently indicated. If informal education can condense 3 years of primary education into 9months in emergency settings, why not explore this further so that all children can better balance the right to education with the right to play? https://41pylqn86jp37e3n04us8vqq-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/ECR-Final_Report.pdf

Reading clubs, toy libraries, municipal libraries with trained staff and internet connections, variations on Mitra’s ‘hole in the wall’ as well as other creative solutions, may be better at delivering universal basic education to the most vulnerable populations than costly and unwieldy conventional state schools. We need the chance to find out instead of stifling innovation by enforcing narrow and conventional ‘state norms and standards’.

I call on the authors of the Guiding Principles to check carefully whether a set curriculum and pedagogy as opposed to emergent/personal curricula and heutagogy are entrenched in international human rights law, or whether this text creates an unnecessary problem by using wording that simply rests on an unfounded assumption about this.

If it is in line with human rights law, as I believe it should be, that alternative educational approaches rather than only religion and culture are good reason for the exercise of educational freedom then I propose the following insertion on p4:

States’ obligations to eliminate substantive discrimination includes an obligation to ensure that everyone has equal access to quality inclusive education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live, without any discrimination on any ground. It also includes an obligation to ensure reasonable accommodation of individuals’ requirements in education institutions,”and to ensure that state norms and standards are worded to also allow for informal and heutagogical approaches to education.”

Please indicate your suggestions of additional requirements for the minimum standards (guiding principle 45)

Mechanisms for children’s participation to give them a voice and empower their positive contribution.

Mechanisms for children to get quick, safe, effective help with problematic circumstances in their educational environment such as bullying and abuse by teachers.

Sufficient play and rest breaks during the school day, similar but more extensive than the minimum meal and rest breaks granted to adult workers. (It should be cause for concern that some schools are doing away with recess, others are letting children outside on alternate days.)

Defined limits on homework hours, holiday assignments and ‘detention’ punishments during and after school hours.

Safeguarding against misdiagnosis and inappropriate prescription of drugs for children who are merely energetic, talkative, creative, easily bored, or need a different learning environment or educational approach to what is currently available to them.

Is there any Guiding Principle that is unclear for you? Please indicate the Guiding Principle number, why it is unclear, and if you have any suggestion for improvement.

Problem: “Norms and Standards” – curriculum and pedagogy.

We cannot assume that just because the education provided by any given state is free, equal and universal, that it will be the kind of education consonant with the aims of education stated here. Many states provide very narrow content-oriented rote-learning types of education that are essentially obsolete.

Where the state uses their own sub-optimal approach to set ‘norms and standards’ this can interfere with the right to the kind of education as defined here.

In this case it is critical that freedom of education is carefully protected.

Various pages of the Guiding Principles are in conflict with each other on the topic of “norms and standards” when one considers the particular needs of progressive education and self-directed education.

These forms of education are more aligned with children’s rights than most other approaches and exceptionally able to fulfill the right to education as described under Section 2, Foundational Principles, the “Nature of the right to education”; yet the nebulous way that state “norms and standards” are referred to in this document makes it possible for states to misinterpret these types of facilities as offering education ‘below’ state standards where such states choose, as part of their “norms and standards”, to specify a specific curriculum or curriculum type, and/or a particular type of pedagogical approach.

As the text currently stands states could deliberately use this as a way to justify prejudicial action against alternative approaches to education which the state concerned can’t yet match, so as not to be ‘shown up’.

While the intent of these Guiding Principles seems to be that ‘norms and standards’ should be interpreted in terms of human rights compliance, states have a tendency to interpret this phrase in easily administrated quantitative and content-specific terms rather than rights-compliance terms. One example is the current draft Basic Education Law Amendment Bill, (South Africa) which, if promulgated, will require all private actors to align with the national curriculum statement (CAPS.)

It is important for educational freedom that the Guiding Principles don’t give states a mandate or even apparently the imperative to ‘phase out’ these forms of education. As the text is currently worded, this is a real danger.

The spirit of the paragraph below (Minimum Standards c) p15 ) is deeply supportive of progressive and self-directed education in that these forms of education are particularly able to allow for the holistic development of the child and the fulfillment of their right to education in far more than a narrow academic sense:
“The curriculum to be used and, with due regards to academic freedom and institutional autonomy, the pedagogical practices, in particular in order to ensure that appropriate time and expertise be allocated within the curriculum for children to learn, participate in and generate cultural, physical, and artistic activities and that no pressure for educational achievement or emphasis on formal academic success undermine the right of the child to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural life and the arts…” (emphasis mine)
However the specific use of both the words “curriculum” and “pedagogical” in this paragraph as well as in Minimum Standards a.vi, creates an internal contradiction in that “due regards to academic freedom and institutional autonomy” for both progressive and self-directed education requires that personalised emergent ‘curricula’ and heutagogical practices also be allowed – while the implication here is that the state may confine private practitioners to a particular prescribed curriculum and concomitant pedagogical rather than heutagogical practices.

Pages that need to be brought into accord in order to resolve this:

Firstly:
SUGGESTED REMEDY
Reword:
a.vi Transparency of and access to essential information about the operators, including all potential charges, the use of education resources, the educational approach including any curricular, pedagogical or other educational practices, the conditions of enrolment, and other policies of the operators; and

And reword:
3.“The curriculum or approach to be used and, with due regards to academic freedom and institutional autonomy, the pedagogical or other educational practices, in particular in order to ensure that appropriate time and expertise be allocated (delete: within the curriculum) for children to learn, participate in and generate cultural, physical, and artistic activities and that no pressure for educational achievement or emphasis on formal academic success undermine the right of the child to rest, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural life and the arts…”

Secondly:
p3
Everyone has a right to an education that allows them to flourish, independently grow, effectively participate in society, and have the capacity and necessary critical thinking to elaborate and realise their own life project in an autonomous way. This is the right to a well educated, enlightened and active mind, able to wander freely and widely, as one of the joys and rewards of human existence.
(and footnote)
The so-called “life plan,” deals with the full self-actualisation of the person concerned and takes account of her calling in life, her particular circumstances, her potentialities, and her ambitions, thus permitting her to set for herself, in a reasonable manner, specific goals, and to attain those goals. The concept of a “life plan” is akin to the concept of personal fulfillment, which in turn is based on the options that an individual may have for leading his life and achieving the goal that he sets for himself. Strictly speaking, those options are the manifestation and guarantee of freedom. An individual can hardly be described as truly free if he does not have options to pursue in life and to carry that life to its natural conclusion. Those options, in themselves, have an important existential value. Hence, their elimination or curtailment objectively abridges freedom and constitutes the loss of a valuable asset.
The paragraph and footnote above is currently threatened by the paragraph below:
3 (p 5)
International human rights law recognises the liberty of parents or legal guardians to choose for their children an educational institution other than a public educational institution, and the liberty of individuals to establish private educational institutions. These liberties are subject to the conditions that these educational institutions conform to national standards that are in line with international human rights law, and that the exercise of this liberty does not undermine any other dimension of the right to education.
SUGGESTED REMEDY: If the phrase “national standards that are in line with” is struck, so that the amended paragraph reads …
“These liberties are subject to the conditions that these educational institutions conform to (national standards that are in line with ) international human rights law”
…then states will not be able to interpose inappropriate specific ‘standards’ between these private actors facilitating ideal educational facilities, and international human rights law with which these private actors already comply.
Thirdly:
P11
States have an international obligation to respect the liberty of individuals to choose and the liberty of individuals and bodies to establish educational institutions other than those established by the public authorities…
Currently conflicts with:
The establishment or maintenance of private educational institutions, if the object of the institutions is not to secure the exclusion of any group but to provide educational facilities in addition to those provided by the public authorities, if the institutions are conducted in accordance with that object, and if the education provided conforms with such standards as may be laid down or approved by the competent authorities, in particular for education of the same level, does not constitute discrimination in accordance with international human rights law.
This conflict results from ambiguity around what constitutes ‘competent authorities’ enabling states to lay down ‘standards’ that preclude certain approaches: for example a specific content-based curriculum may be laid down as a ‘standard’ defining a ‘level’ that de facto removes the right of the family to choose an institution that offers a child-centred emergent curriculum such as may be offered in a Reggio-inspired primary school.
SUGGESTED REMEDY
Reword to read: “and if the education provided conforms with standards pertinent to the specific approach of the private educational institution concerned, does not constitute discrimination in accordance with international human rights law.”
AND
SUGGESTED REMEDY:
Under “Non-Discrimination” p4 insert after point 2, renumbering point 3 as point 4:
States must ensure that their laws, policies or practices do not have the direct or indirect effect of creating, furthering, or entrenching discrimination in any educational context, and must take all measures to prevent and, where necessary, redress:
disparities of educational opportunity for some groups in society, including people living in poverty,that create systemic discrimination; or

levels of segregation of the education system that are discriminatory on the basis of the ability to pay or on any prohibited basis such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status;

discrimination against educational approaches that comply with human rights law but differ from the educational approach currently preferred by the state;

or any other situation that is discriminatory on any ground.

Fourthly:
D Assessment and Monitoring of Private Actors p17
Insert:
Where private educational operators do not respect State regulations, States must take all necessary steps to remedy this situation, in the shortest possible time. Such steps may include liquidation of the educational institution after ensuring that all affected learners have access to an acceptable alternative educational institution offering the same type of educational approach as the liquidated institution.

Do you have any comment on the terminology used in the Guiding Principles, and in particular, are the terms used accurate and precise enough? Please specify the terms at stake if applicable, and specific suggestions. Please indicate the terms that are unclear, and suggestions for improvements if you have.

“Compulsory”

It is critically important for the Guiding Principles to provide an explicit and very overdue disambiguation of the term “compulsory” since it has caused a lot of confusion and pain for children over the years and if not clarified by these Guiding Priniciples, will continue to do so.

Compulsory education is “the education that a parent must see that his child must receive to the age of 16” COMPULSORY EDUCATION or according to these Guiding Principles, a minimum of nine years for each to child to spend actively dedicated to their education.

Misinterpreting the word ‘compulsory’ to mean that we should exclude (or can simply ignore) the topic of consent from the discourse around children’s education, directly contradicts the core value of child participation.

Such a misinterpretation makes nonsense of children’s rights.

It also annihilates the concept of educational freedom.

However, this is exactly how it is misinterpreted in practice, precisely when it comes to the topic of states’ obligations regarding private education.

The spirit behind the use of the term ‘compulsory’ with reference to basic education clearly refers to the obligation of parents to ensure that their children are enabled to fully realise their right to education, as well as to the obligation of states to provide free and sufficient universal access to educational resources, and to ensure that each and every child is proactively supported in realising their right to education as fully as possible, and that the primary activity of the child under the age of 16 shall be the pursuit of their education rather than paid or unpaid labour.

It is clear to human rights experts that “Children do not lose their human rights by virtue of passing through the school gates,” (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), General comment No. 1 (2001), Article 29 (1), The aims of education, 17 April 2001, CRC/GC/2001/1, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4538834d2.html [accessed 23 September 2018] ) and that the best interests of the child are paramount. However, due to common authoritarian misunderstandings of the term ‘compulsory’ this is currently not clear to all states in general and to all education officials in particular.

Some states interpret the word ‘compulsory’ to mean that governments have license to compel children and families to comply with state convenience against their will and even against the best interests of the child, in any situation where the right to education can be invoked as an excuse to do so.

The term “compulsory” is taken to mean that the state can safely ignore the voices of parents and children when it comes to education, since the term ‘compulsory’ implies that the state has the right to simply coerce everyone into compliance with whatever the current administration decides. It is far easier for a state already failing to provide suitable public education, to go on a human-rights-sanctioned witch-hunt against private operators, scapegoating them for its failings, than to put their own broken schools in order.

It is currently common in South Africa for home-educating families to stay ‘under the radar’ out of fear of the state’s current policy to compel such families to use the state curriculum which their children have already discovered does not meet their educational needs, or even to return to schools where their children have actively suffered. It is important to note that, in contrast to the propagandised official stereotype of white racist home-schoolers, a growing number of all kinds of South Africans including black families are rescuing their children from oppressive educational situations. Fear of being open about this and thereby attracting state ‘compulsion’ makes it very hard for low-income families to access the resources they actually need for their children’s education.

Telling an authoritarian state department to put “in place strict and effective regulations on private educational operators” (Guiding Principles draft, p12) without providing a clear disambiguation of the term ‘compulsory’ invites disaster.

Given that these Guiding Principles emphasise the duty of the state to regulate private actors in education, this disambiguation of the word ‘compulsory’ is utterly critical if the Guiding Principles are not to backfire on their actual intent and result in a widespread retrogression of children’s enjoyment of their rights and an obliteration of educational freedom.

This disambiguation does not constitute the creation of a new standard, but constitutes a clarification of the obvious logic behind the use of this term that is not always readily apparent to the public in spite of being obvious to human-rights professionals.

SUGGESTED REMEDY:
Additional point under Section 2 Foundational Principles
(after Nature of Education, before Non-Discrimination:
INSERT: “Compulsory Basic Education
Every child has the right to pursue a minimum of nine years of education with full and free access to sufficient educational resources, as well as the necessary liberty and support to be able to make full use of them.

Parents are obliged to ensure that their children are able to pursue their education during this time, and to ensure that no paid or unpaid duties or labours interfere with the child’s full enjoyment of their right to education.

States are obliged to provide free, equal and sufficient educational resources to all, and to ensure that no person prevents or sabotages the child’s full enjoyment of the right to education.

The word ‘compulsory’ in this sense, is in harmony with the concept of educational freedom.

The word “compulsory” cannot be taken to imply that children can be forced to submit to practices or circumstances that are not acceptable to them or to their parents, in the name of education. Mechanisms for report and redress of educational grievances in both public and private education must be made universally available and accessible directly to all children and their parents.

States must actively prioritise participation of parents and children in the creation of education policy, and endeavour to progressively implement child-friendly, consent-oriented approaches to the provision of public and private education.”

 

The Moral Logic of the 3 S’s: Spinach, Seatbelts, and School

The hot debate about compulsory schooling is only getting hotter.

One of the popular arguments is that children often have to be forced to act in their own best interests, and that education is no different. Three common parallels I have seen drawn are between seatbelts, spinach, and school.

Let’s take a quick look at those popular three S’s.

Spinach:

Spinach is very high in salicylates, oxalates, and purines. A child with sensitivities to any of these is following their own body wisdom when they resist eating spinach – and they can truly suffer if forced to do so.

Even if your child does not have any of these sensitivities, forcing your child to eat too much spinach can cause kidney stones, problems with mineral absorption, and even anemia. “Too much” isn’t clearly defined, and very individual.

So, is it morally justified to force a child to eat spinach, rather than allowing them to select healthful alternatives?*

School:

School is high on pressure, low on opportunities for movement, high on sensory overload and low on opportunities for autonomous expression. It also forces a curriculum which limits children’s pursuit of other interests, and insists they become generalists to the point that there is little time for developing any particular talents. Children who are highly sensitive, strong-willed, have naturally high energy levels, and children with specific talents or high creativity are following their own inner wisdom when they resist mainstream school environments, and can genuinely suffer if forced to go.

Even children without these characteristics can suffer from school stress, play deficits from too much academic work too soon, confidence problems from tackling work they are not personally ready for, bullying, and more. Depression, anxiety, and even suicide are increasingly linked to forced schooling.

So, is it morally justified to force children to stay in school, rather than allowing them to choose educational pathways they find more comfortable?*

As Immanuel Kant pointed out, we should be careful to “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.” In other words, to be fair and morally right, your law should apply to everyone, no exceptions, yourself included.

Spinach:

If you are not prepared to force your spouse, mother in law, and visiting community leader to eat their spinach, is there really moral justification to demand that of children?

If eating spinach is not a matter of life-and-death, and there are other ways to be healthy, and, there is evidence that it can even do harm, how can we justify forcing anyone to eat it?

School:

Let’s consider the number of successful adults, even in high profile positions, who have no school-leaving-certificate, and did not spend the full twelve years pursuing one. In case you didn’t know, some of them are very successful indeed.*

If it is not agreed that school is important enough that all adults be forced by law to suspend all other activities and spend the same daily hours in an adult school-equivalent until they have met the minimum standard either in outcome or in years pursuing it, what moral justification is there to demand that of children?

Seatbelts:

Seatbelts are a matter of life and death, and even so there is an ongoing debate about legal enforcement being an infringement of individual liberty. There is also considerable civil disobedience. In some places there is also a lower penalty for staying unbuckled, than for dodging school.

The seatbelt law (where it stands) applies to us all, which means that forcing a child to wear a seatbelt is – at least technically – morally justifiable.

Spinach and school? Nope.

 

*If you do not yet know that there are many, many ways for children to get healthy nutrients, and a great education, and grow to thrive as adults, without ever eating spinach or going to a school, you can no longer consider yourself educated. I will not try to force you to do your homework. I believe you will derive more benefit, if you choose it for yourself.

Under 18’s Comment on the BELA Bill

Thank you to every person who made this happen! Your participation is something to be proud of. The following documents have been sent.

 

Att: Adv. Rudman

Re: Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill Comments from Under 18’s

To Whom it May Concern

Please note that:

South African Children’s Act 38

Child participation

10. Every child that is of such an age, maturity and stage of development as to be able to participate in any matter concerning that child has the right to participate in an appropriate way and views expressed by the child must be given due consideration.

[Date of commencement of section 10: 1 July 2007]

Further, South Africa has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

UNCRC Article 12

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

However, the state has made no attempt to provide such opportunity for children to be heard in this proceeding, in spite of the fact that it affects every child in the land, and affects children far more than it affects any adult.

Further, both the content, and the process that has been followed in the tabling of the BELA Bill is perceived by many children as terrifying intimidation, since it appears to be a steamroll job underway, that threatens to jail their parents for up to six years, simply for providing for their optimal education according to their individual best interest.

Many children in alternative education (both home education and micro educational facilities) are petrified of sending you any commentary that can used to identify their families.

Most telling of all, some dread that you might identify them in order to force them into school – especially those who have been in school before.

The level of fear this bill has instilled in some children could possibly even equal the kind of experience that leads to charges of Crimen Injuria.

Given all of the above, and given the child’s right to privacy (UNCRC Article 16), we have no choice but to submit the tiny number of comments we have managed to curate in the pitifully foreshortened time that your office has allowed, anonymously.

We do understand that you need to ensure no fraud and accurately count the number of genuine submissions. In the event that we receive reliable guarantee of confidentiality, we will make information available to independent auditors to verify that each comment does come from an identifiable individual person of the stated age, or from a group that actually does exist as described.

We trust that you do understand that under the circumstances you have helped create, to disallow these comments due to their anonymity, cannot be contemplated.

It has been extremely challenging in the inexplicably short time allowed, to explain the BELA Bill sufficiently to children in an age-appropriate way, and collect their informed comments, without significantly interfering with their studies at this time of year. For these reasons as well as limited resources, only a small number of children had time to participate. Also, just as with adults, there has simply not been enough time to cover the bill in adequate depth to provide for comprehensive comment. Therefore every child participating through this channel reserves the right to send further comment should circumstances allow.

What really ought to happen, is for your office to suspend all decision on the BELA Bill until every child in the land has had age-appropriate, properly facilitated opportunity to understand and make informed comment not only on the BELA Bill, but on the entirety of Basic Education Law, all of which is currently morally invalid as a result of the appalling lack of due process that has been followed – persistently creating legislation that intimately affects children without any meaningful child participation whatsoever.

The original plan was for individual comments to be forwarded to you one by one from this address, time pressure has not allowed for this, so please be sure to count each one rather than inappropriately choosing to consider them as one comment from one source. There is one submission from a group, which can be counted as one. The rest are not comments from a single umbrella source, they are completely personal individual comments, forwarded through one channel for reasons of protection of identity.

Please note that children from a variety of circumstances participated, including some children conventionally considered to have ‘special needs’. Some children are currently home educated, some are in government schools, and some attend various types of alternative education facilities. Some have learned using the CAPS curriculum, others have used alternative curricula, still others have experienced emergent curricula and project-based education, and it is important to note that some have learned using no externally discernible curriculum at all – ‘natural’ learning, ‘unschooling’ and Self Directed Education (SDE). While most submissions were made in English, home languages include inter alia English, Afrikaans, isiZulu, isiXhosa, and Sesotho. Where children were not able to write for themselves, adults have taken verbatim dictation. Hand-written comments were retyped. The original plan was to leave all spelling verbatim but adult data capturers made so many errors due to time pressure that all had to be corrected since it became unclear which errors were which without time to check. Many of the comments were rushed and brief, to meet the deadline without taking too much time from other educational priorities. Religious backgrounds include Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic and other religious minorities that will not be mentioned since to do so could possibly assist in identification of the child. Some children included their age. Where children included genders, names, and identifiable places, adults decided to delete these.

For your convenience, a brief overview of a few of the emergent themes discernible in the children’s comments follows.

Please note that although children were completely free to comment as they wished, there was not one single comment in favour of the bill, each and every child who submitted a comment, opposed it.

Comment 1: The BELA Bill Fails to Significantly Address the Issue of Violence in Schools.

Violence and fear of mental and physical violence in school features frequently in this collection of comments. It is common knowledge that South Africa has a severe problem with bullying by peers, as well as abuse of learners by adults. The children’s comments about violence are not a direct response to the BELA Bill’s contents in this regard – they can’t be, because there isn’t any. However, this does not make their comments about violence irrelevant: they should be read as an indication that this core concern needs to be addressed, so that children can see what legislative provision is to be made for the issue, and be able to comment on that plan.

UNCRC Article 19

1. States Parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child.

Ignoring this issue is the opposite of taking “all appropriate legislative” measures. Amendment bills simply don’t come around often enough that this omission can be justified.

Comment 2: CAPS Does Not Meet Children’s Educational Needs and is Not in Their Best Interest

 

This collection of comments suggests that some children who have experienced CAPS find it wastes their time and kills their love of learning, is inferior to some other curricula in their experience, and offers an expensive and limiting form of school-leaving certificate. This is a very important implicit comment on the BELA Bill’s stated intention to confine all children to CAPS or CAPS equivalents.

South African Children’s Act 38

Best interests of child paramount

9. In all matters concerning the care, protection and well-being of a child the standard that the child’s best interest is of paramount importance, must be applied.

[Date of commencement of section 9: 1 July 2007]

Unless the state can prove through concrete evidence that CAPS is in the best interest of the child, in spite of both the child and the parent holding otherwise, enforcing CAPS and CAPS equivalent curricula and school-leaving certificates, is not legally justifiable

Comment 3: State-Compliant Schooling Often Doesn’t Make for Optimal Learning.

This collection of comments shows that many children struggle to learn in government schools as well as state-compliant private schools. Significantly, those from alternative education facilities that do not comply with the curriculum and assessment processes that the BELA Bill seeks to universally impose, did not find these facilities to be problematic. It is not simply a matter of home education vs attending a facility. The kind of facility matters.

Comment 4: The Government Does Not Own Us

This collection of comments shows that children do not feel the BELA Bill is respectful to them, and inspires feelings of anger and cynicism.

Comment 5: Lack of Appropriate Support for Special Needs

Children complain that they, friends, and siblings with special needs are treated inappropriately and not sufficiently catered for. Again, this is not a comment on the contents of the BELA Bill, but on its lack of contents.

This issue must be urgently addressed in any meaningful amendment bill.

Comment 6: Some Children Experience Government Schooling and CAPS as Stressful to the Level of Being Traumatic.

Again, Article 19 applies. This is no joke. Anything that can be identified as a contributor to a child suffering stress to the point of becoming ill; depression; anxiety; self-harming; contemplating, attempting, or committing suicide; must be addressed with the utmost urgency and seriousness.

Some children currently experience CAPS, state-sanctioned schools, and state sanctioned assessment processes, as so stressful that some might consider it equivalent to a form of torture.

It is critically important for educational policy makers in South Africa to wake up to the fact that:

There are forms of alternative education that are now available that are cheaper, more child-friendly, and more effective in achieving literacy, numeracy, vocational skills, life skills, and even advanced academic competence, than ‘school’. Many children do find that these alternatives are in their best interest, and their parents agree. There is thus no justifiable reason to entrench enforcement of old-fashioned torture-style schooling, and prevent the emergence of new, child-friendly forms of education that are in any case better preparation for the high-tech future we face. Yet this is exactly what the BELA Bill does.

If there were no way for a child to achieve basic education without ‘school’ then an argument could be made that one must make sacrifices to achieve important ends.

Given that there are now decades of evidence that children, provided with appropriate support, can learn happily, completely under their own direction, with no prescribed curriculum or assessments whatsoever, there is no way to justify legally prescribing what they experience as a traumatic.

Again: the best interests of the child, are paramount.

In Closing

South African Children’s Act 38

Application

8. (1) The rights which a child has in terms of this Act supplement the rights which a child has in terms of the Bill of Rights.

(2) All organs of state in any sphere of government and all officials, employees and representatives of an organ of state must respect, protect and promote the rights of children contained in this Act.

[Date of commencement of section 8: 1 July 2007]

What has your office has done, so far, to respect, protect, and promote the child’s right to participate in the BELA Bill drafting and public comment process? What will it do now?

The lack of amendments to provide for the protection and promotion of children’s participation in policy making and administration of their education facilities is another glaring gap in the BELA Bill.

It is further important to note that the BELA Bill fails to address a number of other issues that are critically important to children. It is likely that a proper participatory consultation process with proper time and resources invested, will bring additional issues to the fore.

The draft bill was described to the cabinet as “the outcome of the review of all basic education legislation with a view to enhancing organisational efficiency so as to improve school governance, leadership and accountability, transforming education services, and protecting vulnerable groups to ensure the well-being of learners.”

Yet this collection of comments from children shows that their experience is that compliance with Basic Education Law both current and currently proposed, in and of itself is rendering them ‘vulnerable’. They do not feel that their well-being is being ensured – just the opposite. This bill directly threatens their sense of well-being.

There is an urgent and critical need to amend, or possibly, completely replace our current South African Basic Education Laws.

It is asolutely necessary that all such amendments or replacements “respect, protect and promote the rights of children”.

Any amendment that cannot plausibly be shown to “respect, protect and promote the rights of children” cannot be contemplated.

Att: Adv. Rudman

Re: Comments from under-18’s

 

To reiterate: We trust that you do understand that under the circumstances you have helped create, explained in the cover letter, to disallow these comments due to their anonymity, cannot be contemplated.

We do understand that you need to ensure no fraud and no multiple submissions. In the event that we receive reliable guarantee of confidentiality, we will make information available to independent auditors to verify that each comment does come from an identifiable individual person of the stated age, or from a group that actually does exist as described.

It has been extremely challenging in the inexplicably short time allowed, to explain the BELA Bill sufficiently to children in an age-appropriate way, and collect their informed comments, without significantly interfering with their studies at this time of year. For these reasons as well as limited resources, only a small number of children had time to participate. Also, just as with adults, there has simply not been enough time to cover the bill in adequate depth to provide for comprehensive comment. Therefore every child participating through this channel reserves the right to send further comment should circumstances allow.

The original plan was for individual comments to be forwarded to you one by one from this address, time pressure has not allowed for this, so please be sure to count each one rather than inappropriately choosing to consider them as one comment from one source. There is one submission from a group, which can be counted as one. The rest are not comments from a single umbrella source, they are completely personal individual comments, forwarded through one channel for reasons of protection of identity.

Please note that children from a variety of circumstances participated. Some children are currently home educated, some are in government schools, and some attend various types of alternative education facilities. Some have learned using the CAPS curriculum, others have used alternative curricula, still others have experienced emergent curricula and project-based education, and it is important to note that some have learned using no externally discernible curriculum at all – ‘natural’ learning, ‘unschooling’ and Self Directed Education (SDE). While most submissions were made in English, home languages include inter alia English, Afrikaans, isiZulu, isiXhosa, and Sesotho. Where children were not able to write for themselves, adults have taken verbatim dictation. Hand-written comments were retyped. The original plan was to leave all spelling verbatim but adult data capturers made so many errors due to time pressure that all had to be corrected since it became unclear which errors were which without time to check. Some documents suffer formatting problems that there isn’t time to fix. Some of the comments were rushed and brief, to meet the deadline without taking too much time from other educational priorities. Religious backgrounds include Christian, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic and other religious minorities that will not be mentioned since to do so could possibly assist in identification of the child. Some children included their age. Where children included genders, names, and identifiable places, adults decided to delete these.

We offered both email and whatsapp as channels for submission. Text, hand written scans, and voice notes were permitted, and all were reduced to type.

Emailed Comments

*

I am fifteen years old and I have never been to school. I have learnt naturally my whole life. I am quite busy most days: I love sports (I have SA colours) reading (I volunteer as a book reviewer for a library), animals and nature (my brother and I work with a vet on a bird rehabilitation project, we are members of the local bird club and volunteers at a science lab, we enjoy hiking), and music (I play two instruments). I have plenty of friends. I have never wanted to go to school. The government now wants to pass this bill that says that I must follow the school curriculum. Why? As whoever is reading this can see, I can read and write. You can learn about anything you want to know through a myriad of other sources that have nothing to do with school.  Why should I waste my time, energy and brainpower on things I have no interest in? If I have no interest in it why do I need to know it? If everyone must know the same things, then  find a few people, teach them exactly the same things and clone them a few thousand times! There are millions of different things you can do in life, but people want to teach kids exactly the same things, regardless of what they actually want to learn. Some of the best scientists and inventors and other interesting people didn’t do well at school. Thomas Edison was kicked out of school, and told he was absolutely useless but he went on to invent the lightbulb. Most of my friends go to school, and they always have little time to pursue their own interests and just have fun. They always have homework or tests or some other school related activity, which they often don’t want to do but have to. It’s not only about the schoolwork, it’s also the other stuff like bullying and peer pressure that they have to deal with. I don’t want to become a part of that, a clone who thinks what it’s been told to think and does what its told to do. I know that a lot of people choose to go to school and are happy with that choice, and that’s fine. But it should not be forced upon people who don’t want to go. I have a right to choose my own system of education. And I think I can certainly decide better what’s the best way for me than someone sitting in an office who doesn’t even know me or what I do.

*

This collective comment is minuted from a group discussion among learners in a small alternative education facility. All comments are from group members aged under 18 and as close to verbatim as a rushed discussion and minuting process allowed. The discussion was allowed to flow in a spontaneous way and simply minuted. Some of the children previously attended government schools, at the other extreme, some members have learned entirely through ‘self-directed’ learning all their lives. This facility has children ranging from age 5 to age 15, both genders, all conceivable skin colours, and a variety of home languages and religions.

Dear Adv, Rudman

Our group would like you to know that –

You learn faster when you want to learn.

School breaks creativity. In school at grade 4 all the toys and games and creativity stopped. Here we can still draw, do music, and play at all ages.

Every child is different.

A few of the things we do with our unique talents that we could never have time for, if we were in government school and had to follow CAPS –

– deep musical knowledge and time to practise as much as needed

– animal care (this child responsibly cares for an entire small-holding of agricultural animals the child has actively acquired with money earned through micro entrepreneurship)

– build a fully mobile radio control tank out of Lego, without any kit just parts and planning

– outings during the week

School had an absolutely unnecessary amount of work that’s just there to clutter up time. Like learning the difference between a city and a town, why is that kind of simple thing even there, it’s a waste of your time, you would figure it out on your own anyway, and you would learn it faster at a younger age if you used life experience instead of school.

Each kid is unique and everyone needs their own time to focus. We’re all naturally better at different things, let us get better at what we are really good at. In real life learning history won’t help you be a doctor. CAPS and school make you learn a lot of irrelevant stuff you will never need, and it’s a waste of time, instead of letting you focus on learning what you actually need for your own life.

And as for tests – some of us don’t mind tests but some of us don’t work well under pressure. Tests don’t show what we can do, and they are all about short term memory not long term memory. I used to keep it buzzing in my mind all the way to the year end tests, but I can’t remember it now, and my parents could never recognise the stuff, they didn’t remember it either, so what is the point? Tests are not an accurate respresentation. The difference between what a test shows, and reality of what you know, is like looking at something through a bent lens, or showing your swimming skills in a pool with the cover still on.

We need to learn what we need for what we are mastering. School is like giving you a set of tools for woodwork when what you want to do is metalwork – stuff that just doesn’t help.

School can be very stressful. Our friends in school seem to have zero time at all. Homework is a terrible thing. My one friend I went to visit couldn’t play because he had 300pages! He sometimes stays up to 1am to finish and just gets exhausted. All those kids can do is school and TV, they never get to do anything else.

Our friends in school don’t want to know interesting stuff; we’re curious and interested in things now they think are boring just because they’re so sick of it.

In school everything you learn is from a book, nothing is real. My mom gives me the card and I go do the grocery shopping on my own if I want.

Most kids say “I hate school”, but kids who come here, love it. Like most kids are “ah, no!” that they have to go to school in the morning, but kids in this kind of place are so happy that they get to come this morning.

Putting parents in jail is a bit much. A small fine would do. It’s really overkill. You shouldn’t be able to punish them anyway. It should be my personal choice what I learn. If they take us to court they will find that they can’t actually. They’re trying to intimidate us. It’s like putting people in jail for late library books. Jail is where murderers go! I mean come on. Your parents refuse to put you in an institution so they get put in a worse institution.

The government are saying they own us! Governments are at least supposed to try to disguise that they’re controlling us, don’t make it so obvious, try a bit harder, LOL.

There is literally no way to make a person learn.

School corrupts kids, it’s a kind of brainwashing. There’s peer pressure and drug abuse.

At school the teachers all stood by the tuckshop, so behind the building they couldn’t see, so we always got dragged there by the bullies. One time I told the teacher the guy was calling me names, and because he owned up, then I got punished!?

When you try to explain to them how so much of what you learn in school is not that useful, they can’t see it, they’re not open to other ideas generally, they have such limited experience and simplistic ways, it’s all about conformity and uniforms.

I was one of two atheists in the whole school, there wasn’t much diversity, kids wouldn’t even believe me and thought I was lying, they couldn’t understand. Here, you can follow a religion if you want, or not. If you want to do a religious event you can just put it on the list to discuss, of things to do.

The government should allow places like here instead of trying to shut us down or make it be the same.

Kids here are fee to do what we choose. There is loads of evidence that self-directed kids are more successful and happier in life,

Teachers in school used to say “I am not your friend” but here the staff, you really connect.

Some of us found that it was harder to find real friends at school – because you have to change yourself at least 50% to fit in. Here you can be yourself and discover who you are.

The world would be a better place if this kind of learning was normal, people who do bad things are just really stressed, nobody is bad at birth. (Some disagreement and argument followed that was too quick and complex to minute, as a philosophical disagreement flared up, then they decided to get back to the task at hand.)

Here, I don’t really notice which colour our friends are, I mean, I have got eyes, but it just doesn’t make a difference. People are people. They’re all different anyway.

And we have conflict resolution so both sides win.

Kids here are HAPPY.

And that’s why government should support us instead of stopping us.

*

7 November 2017

A letter against the BELA Bill

In main school, from primary school and high school (government) I have never enjoyed school until I started home schooling

from grade 3-7 I was bullied and teased and the school did nothing. Got to the point where I would skip any day I could, to get away.

Grade 8 I went to a new school and the bullying continued. The teachers said I must deal with it on my own. School quickly became very stressful for me, it had gotten to the point where I had anxiety being around people and became depressed.

Students would say and do anything to make me feel worse and not worthy.

Learning was hard, because I would be scared to ask questions in class because the teacher

would make rude comments or send you away, embarrass you in front of the class if you didn’t understand something. I never felt comfortable in class.

I was basically failing most of my subjects or just passing at school. And not much I could do to get help to understand my work and have someone help me through it.

Now with home schooling I am able to understand work better and have a better grounding for my work and doing better. I was really battling with math,now able to restart my math and have the time to understand each section and in an environment where I am comfortable and happy home schooling benefits me in so many ways from doing as much work as I want, or going at my own pace and not being stressed over so many things.

The work I have learnt this year is so interesting and fun, making me do more and learn more about it. Where as school it was the same basic work every year, learning hardly anything new.

If I am sick, I can continue doing my work in my own environment instead of falling behind with work and not understanding.

I don’t have to stress over continuous tests and exams because my tutor is always aware of my progress and If I don’t understand something I can take a little longer so I know I know what I need to financially school was stressful for my parents and it made me feel guilty that we needed the money and wasn’t benefiting us. Home schooling is cheaper and I’m enjoying it.

I fell behind in school with the CAPS and now out of my age bracket for school (I was 16 in Grade 8). Where as now I can catch up and do more, as well as have a better grounding. I am preparing to write the GED exams as there is no other option in this country that we can afford.

Having this alternative has benefited me and finishing my high schooling faster than I would have in main stream schooling. And I have more opportunities with these alternatives and now can work on getting better grades to take my studies further than I would if I was in main stream schooling. With my work, I have internet access and library access. I can research anything that comes up in my studies. At the moment I don’t need additional teaching but if i should need there are many tutors specialising in these subjects and there are always support groups that we join for additional activities, lessons and outings

Parents who home school their children, have spent so much time on researching the most suitable materials for their children. Forcing us all to use the CAPS curriculum, in the amount of time you want us to do it in, would create more problems for home schooling families. It would cost them more and take up more time the parents could be spending on their kids.

Age 17

*

Mother’s question on top of page: “Hoekom wou jy nie meer in die skool wees nie?”

Answer

Ek Was afgeknou.

Ek was baie eensaam.

Niemand wou in die begin met my speel nie.

Ek wil vry wees.

Ek kon net 1 keer in 6 dae op die klimraam speel vir 1 pouse.

Te veel huiswerk.

Ek kon nie tyd kry vir speel nie.

Pouses was net lang genoeg om my kos te kon eet.

Die kinders in die klas het my gepla hulle was stout.

Dit het my gepla dat ek van die werk reeds kon doen en oor en oor moes doen.


 

Mother’s question on top of page: “Hoekom is tuisskool vir jou beter?”

 

Answer:

Ek leer beter en baie meer.

Ek is vry.

Ek kan stories luister.

Ek kan leer wat ek graag wil.

Ek is nie meer eensaam nie.

Ek kan leer teen my eie tempo.

Ek speel baie meer.

Ek kan oefen soveel ek wil.

Ek is gelukkig.

Ek leer hoe om ‘n groentetuin te versorg.

Ek lees baie op my eie.

Ek leer om to herwin.

Ek kan nou lekker moeilike somme doen soveel as wat ek wil.

Wiskunde toetse is lekker pret.

Dit is rustig en stil by die huis.

Ek leer Noord Sotho. Mama plak woorde op en dan leer ek sommer self. Ek wil graaag al die Afrika tale leer praat.

Ek kan moeilike boeke soos Suid Afrikaanse Helde en Ikone en die Sars Kat (?) lees.

Ek leer om die natuur, mense en diere met baie liefde en respek to hanteer.

Kan ek asseblief aanhou tuisskool op my manier. Ek wil nie vir ure lank stil sit nie. Ek wil beweeg en speel. Skool is vir my iets negatief. Moet asseblief nie die wet verander nie die skool maak my hartseer en moedeloos.

Ek wil gelukkig en vry wees!

7 jarige tuisskoler

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7 November 2017

My name is –, I am 15 years of age, and I have been home schooled since I was 8. I am currently completing my Cambridge IGCSEs as a private student. By being home schooled it has let me work at my own pace and achieve many things in my own time that I wouldn’t have achieved had I been in a school. It is also allowing me to complete a world-known Cambridge school leaving certificate. I really do not want to have to stop my Cambridge curriculum and switch to CAPS. I have already done so much work. Also, my family would not be able to afford to send me to a private school that does Cambridge.

Growing up at home let me play, have fun and all in all have a really wonderful childhood, while still learning necessary things for my age. I believe that every child deserves to have a childhood where they can have fun, feel safe and be educated, but aren’t forced to sit at a desk all day doing work in an environment with bullies.

I have known many people who were failing multiple subjects when they were attending school and then the minute they were able to work at home at their own pace and learn in ways that they could understand, they really improved, and are now able to get a much improved matric. Being at home also means that they could now get necessary tuition to master sections of work that they are unclear with, whereas at school the chance of the teacher even noticing them because of the number of students in the class, or the teacher having any time for them is extremely slim.

Being able to get a good education is a part of our rights, and not everyone can learn through the same syllabus, so I do not think forcing home schoolers to do CAPS is a beneficial decision! What if the parents of these children took them out of school because they weren’t coping with the stress of all the work and just did not understand it. So if you force them do the same work at home they might have breakdowns because of stress and may cause other negative effects on the children. Home schooling helps so many more people than you realise, and now you want to take the freedom of choice from us!

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Dear sir/ma’am.

My name is –, I am a homeschooled child.

I have been homeschooled for 2 years, the reasons for me being homeschooled is quite…upsetting. When I was still in school, I would get bullied regularly because I wore glasses. I also struggled in a class of 30 children, when I would have a question it would never be answered because the teacher would never focus on more than the top-ranking students. I would usually come home and then repeat the question to my mother who would sit and help me.

When I was taken out, my mom quit her job and I couldn’t have been happier to work at home with a loving mother and comfortable environment. No more bullying, no more unanswered questions. I felt happier at home and even though my mom and I have disagreements every now and again I love her and couldn’t ask for a better teacher.

Homeschooling has helped me with questions and subjects I was losing grades on. I am now excelling at certain subjects but behind on a few. The subjects I am behind on are quickly being caught up and soon I’ll be up to date on all my subjects.

Please don’t take this away from me, my sister, a special needs child, is also homeschooled and it’s helped her a lot too. Please don’t take this away, it’s helped us so much and we’re happy here.

Thank you, have a nice day.

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Dear Sir/ Mam

I am 7 years old. I am in Grade 1.  At home I talk Afrikaans. My mum is Afrikaans and also my brother. At school all my friends speak English and Zulu. There is not a Afrikaans school here.  At my school, They don’t understand Afrikaans.  I don’t understand when the teacher only talks in Zulu. Mrs Cele always talks in Zulu. Sometimes she writes the English words in my book.  I want my mom to homeschool me and my brother, because she can do that in Afrikaans and English. The teachers sometimes don’t understand me or my brother when we try to talk to them. I give the answer, but then my teacher thinks I am wrong. My mom says it is because they don’t understand my voice. (accent).  When the teachers talk Zulu, I just write everything down from the black board.  My mom says this is wrong. I don’t always remember what we learned at school. Lots of times the other kids make noise. They don’t listen to my teacher.  Some of them get punishment. Sometimes I get punishment.  I can’t learn or remember when the other kids keep talking and making noise.  I want to homeschool. Then my mom can teach me to read. My mom will really help me and my little brother. He is in Grade RR. My mom made a school room for us with lots of pictures with the alphabet and numbers on it. Next year we will homeschool. I am so happy.  We also have a big green board to write on.  My mom says I cannot just copy my work.  I must practice to read like my friend Willie. He is also homeschool with his mum. And he can read in Afrikaans and also English. He is also 7 years old like me. My mom is making me learn to read Afrikaans. At school I can read “cat” but that is all.  I want to learn so I can save animals one day when I am big. 

Thank You.

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Hello my name is – I am 14 and I am speaking on behalf of younger children that cant type yet and that have to go through the same troubles I did . when I was in a public school I was bullied , being behind on a lot of work as well as not passing my exams . I cant let myself and other students go back to that .

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Dear Mam/Sir

I want to tell you what home education is about.

I am — and I am 8 years old. I like being home educated because you always have time to do your thing. when I finish my school work I do not have to do extra homework’ I like reading books and playing with friends when l’m done with school’ My favourite books are fiction books’ l’m now reading The World’s Worst Children, by David Williams and illustrated by Tony Ross. l read it every time I get the chance to.

I play with my friends and sometimes watch TV. I like to play with my toys’ I do karate’ guitar lessons and yoga.

My mom teaches me, and I do Afrikaans, English, story of the world {that is kind of like geography and history combined) and, Maths. we are busy making a book about wild animals. I also do painting drawing and colouring in. My favourite subject is Maths. I don’t like lots of writing, but I like lots of drawing. We have this board game called Brain Box. We have 4 boxes. One is about the world, another is about inventions, the third is about dinosaurs and the fourth is about art. The one I like the most is inventions.

We also do Nature at Heart with a group of kids and parents. We learn about animals. lt is really fun. Last time we were at — Nature Reserve. We did a beach clean-up and learned about the dangers of polluting the ocean.

I like home education more than school because I can choose which subjects I want to do at what time. I can have long breaks if I want to. When my mom teaches me I can do exercises (move around) while she reads to me. ln school I had to sit still all the time. ln home education you still learn discipline.

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I don’t think I shouldn’t go back to a government school because I kept being bullied several times and lowered my self esteem, I kept failing my exams and tests and it was pretty hard for me. I honestly wasn’t sure what to do. If I was made to go back to school I would say no because I would be bullied again and people would give me a hard time again.

*

The BELA Bill would affect me as I have been in a government school and had both good and bad experiences for one I got bullied by all the kids and by adding more kids into the school it would be way worse and that affects my school work and home life. Teachers cant teach properly with 20 or so disrupting kids and this affects my learning as it is disruptive and unnecessary.

I also find the CAPS system to be difficult to understand when the teachers don’t know how to teach properly and the fact that they don’t care if I pass or fail. Being in a Government school was hard enough with bullies and teachers who cant teach but what makes it worse is the time to do things for example in maths you are told to do a whole terms work in such a short period of time which affects me as I things need to be explained in detail so that I can understand it properly. 

Having more teachers would not have an effect on me but the fact that their are teachers that abuse them verbally and physically which has been done to me. Some teachers think everything a joke and will sit talking to the kids instead of working and actually teaching them which makes more stress for the child as this makes there less time to be able to study and to be able to pass with their goal for their report.

I remember in school we used to have a suggestion box which everyone used but the principal would never read any of the letters the letters contained bullies names and numbers, contain teachers verbally abusing the child, suggestions to make the school better, and tons and tons of complaints and rude comments about the schools punctuality and organisation. The letter box would overflow and we would see the garbage man empty it out and put it in a black bag and then throw it in the bins.

Coming from a different school with different rules and subjects to learn from it would be difficult to fit in as you might’ve missed 3 years of work and then you go to a government school and you are stressed about passing and then you have to try cram in work for you exams. Teachers do extra lessons after school which doesn’t always help and there are 15 or so kids there and most of them are forced to be there by their parents.

I think the BELA Bill would make life a lot harder as I’m enjoying the work I’m doing and the teachers care if i pass or fail plus there is no speed limit of the work i do i prefer here than a government school.

(15)

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I went to government school till Grade 4. What I didn’t like about school was that I always had teachers that would pick on me when I didn’t hear properly and tried to ask them what did they say, I was put into a class that had a lot of bullies. Teachers and the school worked at such a very fast pace that I couldn’t finish on time and also did homework till 22:00 and due to it, I wasn’t getting good marks at all.

Where with home schooling I can learn and understand things better with someone that actually cares about me and makes it easier for me to understand things. Doing home schooling I don’t get picked on from teachers and don’t have to worry about bullies. I am allowed to work at my own pace and don’t have to work till very late at night and with home schooling I am getting better marks.

(I am 16 years old)

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I am 13 years old.

I have been in schools all my life, but now I want to homeschool. 

I have had enough of all the bulling and kids without manners in school.

In school they do not learn us the same values as at home.  Children just do what they want and have no respect for teachers.

And I hate CAPS!! IT IS SO BORING!!! We learn the same stuff over and over again every year!!

*

I am 14 years old. I went to a government school for 8 years and I was desperately unhappy. This type of schooling does not work for everyone .I am always much more motivated now at the school that I am going to. I am much more happy on that i do not have to follow this regular school curriculum. At the school that I am going to now I actually want to do my work and do something with my life.

*

I am 9 years old.

I was in a government for grade R and 1.

I did not like it.

It made me feel like a parrot!!

I also have Asperger’s and that did not work in school.

The teachers were always screaming at me to finish my work. Everybody always said I’m too slow.  It made me very sad!!

Now my mom has been homeschooling me for 2 years.  It is the best!!!

I learn so much. I am very good at maths. I can learn about the whole world!

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I am –, I am 13 yrs. old,  I am currently in a primary public school, I am going into High School next year. I’ve had a very difficult  year because of many reasons, in the beginning of the year I suffered being bullied at school, it was horrible I didn’t want to go to school at all, the girls just hated me, I didn’t know what I had done wrong : (.  It all went down hill when everyone expected me to be a prefect but  wasn’t chosen as one, but all the girls that were chosen as prefects, bullied me. : ( . I wanted the ground to swallow me whole! I have  also bullied by the teachers because I have been sick with flu & tonsillitis 11 times this year. I’ve have been sick every single month this year and once even being admitted into hospital with  influence B for a whole week!. The Dr diagnosed me with acid reflux which goes into my nasal cavities and throat especially when I sleep at night. This acid reflux is caused by the stress I have faced this past year at school, which in turn makes me sick every month. So to get to the matter at hand, I want to object against you making home schooling illegal. I can then literally do school all the time even when I’m sick, I can do school work at home, I mean how cool is that! I don’t : ) have to miss out on school work and I can be happy & well again : ) I have lots of different extra murals that I do so I wont be lonely when I homeschool! We as a family have also found that the CAPS system is so bad that we as kids, have no time to actually be kids. We work most days till 8 or 9 every night doing homework.  So I’m asking you very very very nicely to please forget about the anti-home schooling bill! Think of all the other children like me who need to be home schooled. We have a right to an education and whether its at home or a public school! Some of the greatest people on earth were home schooled  such as . U.S. Presidents, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, James Garfield, William Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, James Polk, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, and George Washington.  Home Schooling gives us the opportunity to be great like these men please allow me to homeschool.

many thanks,

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I have asked my mom to type this for me

Age 12. I have dyslexia and would have to go to a special school. I have never been to a school. There are no special schools near where we live and I don’t want to be teased anyway. I am slowly learning to read and write, I use Google speak a lot and learn like that. I even learn to play keyboard using YouTube videos. I like Lego and build huge constructions. I also like Star Wars. School kids seem to be all the same and stressed out!

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Age 14. I am very introverted and find groups of people exhausting. I cyber school from home and I enjoy this. I have a group of friends on WhatsApp and I go to Art, tennis and music where I do get to interact with people and this is enough for me. I have never been to government school and would cry every day if I had to go.

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Aged 16
Never been to government school. I went to a private school for three months in Grade 8 and left because I learn so much more at home, it felt like all the teacher’s did was try to maintain some sort of order in the classroom. It was a nightmare. I want to be able to focus on what interests me and have time to pursue that. I am very musical, I am about to do my Grade 6 UNISA exams for violin and Grade 5 theory exams and no government school around me offers music as a subject. I also play for a youth orchestra. Homeschooling lets me learn and get many hours to practice my music.

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The government is just using us as pawns. Age 12

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Ek hou van by die huis werk omdat ek tyd kan spandeer met my ma en my familie. Ek wil nie meer in die skool wees nie want ek is altyd geboelie, dit was nie lekker om geboelie te word nie. Homeschooling is baie beter want ek word nie geboelie nie. Homeschooling is beter omdat ek my leer werk op my eie tyd kan doen en as ek nie verstaan nie dan kan ek weer en weer en weer vra tot ek verstaan. 

Ek sukkel met lees en kan nie altyd fokus nie wat die juffrouens kwaad gemaak het, by die huis kan ek op my eie tyd leer om mooi te lees.

Daar was 35 kinders in my graad 1 klas en soveel kinders in die klas ….. is messed up. My juffrou kon my nie help toe ek dit nodig gehad het nie, daar was te veel ander kinders om te help.

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8 November 2017

To whom it may concern

I am a 10 year old home-schooler from Gauteng,

I would like to protest against the BELA BILL.

I think that parents or so wrong to send their children to school because there Is so much violence at schools and children get abused and bullied at schools and drugs are involved. 

I am perfectly fine by doing home-schooling.  I was in school before and I hated every second of it.  They give so much work and homework to do that we had no time to have fun and play,  I will NEVER EVER go to school.

I LOVE doing home-schooling.  I have time to play and have fun and my work is so much fun.  My standard is so high I am working at a higher standard as others my age….  I finely understand my work.

In school they push you so hard that you just cannot do it anymore.  In school you do not have real friends they make you feel bad if you do something wrong, were in home-school or Cottage Schools, I have so many friends that no one can say what about socialization?

I will NEVER go to school in my life because THE BIBLE says that as a parent you should raise and teach your children the right ways and your own way, and that is what my mom is doing.

I socialize better than any school kid and everyone else. 
so…

Home-school is better for me because I am a better person to.  My father passed away a few years ago and I feel very safe with my mom.  I have separation anxiety so that’s also why I home-school.   

Please stop trying to force us to go to school!!

From a very happy home-schooler. 

*

(Clarifying note- this child is saying they are no longer in a school)

Age 13, have attended school,

I feel bad for children who go to school because they are being abused. That is why there is so much bullying in schools. Kids feel bad at school, so schools become a breeding ground for bullying. Just to survive in school kids need to build an outer layer around them. They don’t get to be who they are. In school, you have to be an opportunist. You have to hustle friendship. See which people would most benefit your needs and befriend them. I hang out with real friends in my own community. I get to spend more time with my family. I see no need for the schooling system. All answers are online. Learn what you need. I learn current technology by being faced with challenges while doing what I love. I learn about lore and plotlines and discovering plot holes in storytelling while having fun with my friends. Failure is not an option because I can’t leave things not done. I have to finish it. I motivate me! In school, you kinda lose that will to do stuff. School is a graveyard of spirits!

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7 November 2017

Why I Like Being Home schooled:

My name is –. I am 12 years old and have been home schooled for 7 years,

I like being home schooled because my Mom is the person who is with me to help.

I could never cope in school because I get anxious and really stressed and then don’t understand anything I am supposed to do.

I am very shy around other people and sometimes get bullied or teased because I am to scared to say anything about it.

I like it at home, I feel comfortable and happy, I enjoy being in a small environment where I can work at my own pace, if I am battling with a subject my Mom is there to help and give me other things to help me understand and learn more in a fun way.

If I am really getting stressed with my work, my Mom lets me rather do an activity or read a book until I am ready to try again. Whenever I am busy learning something my Mom would do something fun with me, like the one time when I was busy learning measurements my Mom and I baked It was fun and helped me remember. Being home schooled has helped me in a lot of ways.

There are lots of other home schoolers that live near us, and we regularly go on educational outings or social events. I have met lots of different people, some old some young and some who speak different languages, all through home schooling.

I do not think making home schoolers do CAPS is a good idea it might create a lot of troubles and stress in the family. What if the parents took their child out of school because they couldn’t cope with the work. so now if you are making them do the same work at home it will just cause them to have a break down or something. Adding assessments every year would make things even worse and cost our parents lots of money. You don’t understand how home schooling can help a lot of children, but now you are just taking that away from us. Please don’t do it!

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To whom it may concern;
I am a 15 year old Homeschooler from –. I would like to protest against the Bela Bill. Despite the fact that the Constitution of South Africa says nothing about Homeschooling being illegal (1), the Bela Bill proposes to do away with the Freedom of Learning that our country has enjoyed since coming under the ANC, out from the Apartheid Government. If you will allow me, I will point out some of the pros of Homeschooling.

1. Firstly, when one is Homeschooled, one can go at their own pace, instead of being put under unnecessary pressure from a school, or being held back by the school system. For example, I am only in Grade 9 but I am doing Grade 11 maths. This would present a problem if CAPS textbooks are only legal to be used at home, because a child who is especially ahead in Zulu but especially behind in Maths would not be able to do the same level of Zulu and Maths, the one either being too easy or the other being too hard. Either their gaps in maths will prevent them from being able to permanently determine their career options or they will lose their love for the Zulu language as they will have to work on a level that is too easy and boring for them. The Constitution says that ‘a child’s best interests are paramount concerning the child (2),’ and yet the Bela Bill will make life difficult for children who are ahead or behind in certain subjects.
2. Next, when one is a Homeschooler, one can start a business from home, which can potentially lead to new employees. At present, I run music lessons from my house, which could potentially lead to my students pursuing music as a career and starting their own businesses. I also occasionally coach soccer. I know several Homeschoolers who have started their own businesses that are doing incredibly well. If we went to school, or had to take on the CAPS program at home, we would not have time to do this. Looking at the unemployment rates in South Africa, this is actually part of our schooling, by starting businesses now, we can ensure our future.
3. When Homeschooled, one can spend more time outside, whether working on the veranda or jumping on the trampoline after work (which we can complete by 7 in the morning if we choose). This is definitely healthier than having all the Homeschoolers sitting in classrooms from 8 to 2 each day and then sitting inside later at home doing homework.
4. Our parents are actively involved in our schooling and often end up learning things themselves while teaching us. Being homeschooled grows a healthier relationship with our parents than a lot of children have with theirs.
5. The CAPS may teach things that parents all over the country do not agree with, yet it is being forced on the children to learn. This goes against the Constitution of South Africa which says that all people are entitled to Freedom of Belief, Religion and Opinion . (3)
6. My last point is that school can be a very unpleasant and sometimes even dangerous place. Bullying, abuse and raping all occur in our country’s schools. People have their dignity broken (4) , they are exposed to violence(5) , they are treated cruelly and inhumanly at times(6) , the environment is bad for them (7) and they are maltreated and abused (8) (all of which are against the Constitution).

Thank you for taking the time to read this. As part of the crucially important leaders of South Africa, please make the right decision and do away with the Bela Bill as it goes against the Spirit of South Africa that Mandela worked hard to create and has been such inspiration to the rest of the World.

Sincerely Yours,
A SA homeschooler

(1)Constitution of the Republic of South Africa; Chapter 2.29
(2) Constitution of the Republic of South Africa; Chapter 2.28.2
(3)Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Chapter 2.15.1
(4) Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Chapter 2.10
(5) Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Chapter 2.12.1c
(6) Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Chapter 2.12.1e
(7) Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, Chapter 2.24a

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Little kid homeschooling is nice. I like cutting up stuff and I also like the activities and rhymes. I like learning sign language. It is boring if I have to sit at a desk all day. I like being able to play a lot. I love doing hymns. I like Mommy teaching me.” – Age 5

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I like maths. I love morning basket. I like that I can sleep in. I like that I can wear what I want to. I like that I can go to the bathroom without asking. I like that Mommy is my teacher. I’m glad I don’t have to sit at a desk all day. I like learning about the Bible. I like having lots of time to play. We don’t have to have packed lunches and we can have snacks when we want. We can go on nature walks and do science experiments. I like doing handicrafts and art. I like that I can do school with my sister. I’m happy she’s not in a different class. I don’t want to have to learn the same things as everyone else. I don’t want to go to public school. I don’t want the government to make this law. – Age 7

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(Clarifying note, this child says they are ‘home schooling’, they in fact attend a small alternative education facility. There is common confusion about the terminology.)

Age 17

I am against the government wanting to standardise schools. My reason is that everyone has the choice in how to be schooled, making everyone learning the same syllabus will cause problems like suicide. I went to a government school from grade 1-2 and learning the government syllabus was OK but that must stay in government schools, and private syllabus must stay in private schools. I am home-schooling right now, I only started this year. I don;t think they should all learn the CAPS syllabus, this law should not be excepted in South Africa. The suicide rate will increase, the government should not win. If the syllabus changes, all the suicides will be on the government.

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(Clarifying note, this child says they are ‘home schooling’, they in fact attend a small alternative education facility. There is common confusion about the terminology.)

Age 15

I am against standardized government schooling and here are the reasons why. In my opinion Cambridge is way better than caps. I like homeschooling because if you are disabled you wont get bullied but in government school if you are different in any way you will get bullied most of your government government schooling career. I feel everyone should be ale to choose because some people will like different schooling environments than others.

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(Clarifying note, this child says they are ‘home schooling’, they in fact attend a small alternative education facility. There is common confusion about the terminology.)

I am a learner from a homeschool in — and I am 17 years of age. I was in a government school from grade 1 to 4 and then moved to private school from grade 5 to 8 which was clearly more beneficial than what the government school was. Due to circumstances I went to homeschool, the same one I am at now and it works so well for me and I can see how well it works for other children who don’t really fit to social norms. These kids who are happy and have friends here are the same children who got bullied and were not accepted by the other pupils in their government schools. I think it would be cruel and unfair to force children who are at homeschools to go to normal schools because it will do nothing good for the child.

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(Clarifying note, this child says they are ‘home schooling’, they in fact attend a small alternative education facility. There is common confusion about the terminology.)

17 years old

I am a student from a homeschool in —, and I have been in a homeschool since grade 10, and I was in a public school from grade 1-9.

I disagree with what has been said and these are my reasons 1) Studying at the homeschool I’m at now, gives me the opportunity to study overseas

2) Its much easier to deal with on a daily basis

3) It makes students work much harder

4) I personally work well in a homeschool setting.

To force one set standard for education in our country doesn’t give much hope for our future.

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(Clarifying note, this child says they are ‘home schooling’, they in fact attend a small alternative education facility. There is common confusion about the terminology.)

Age 14

I’ve been homeschooled for a year and I’ve been under CAPs. I would like to change because CAPs doesn’t explain and forcing everyone to change to CAPs will limit their thinking.

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(Clarifying note, this child says they are ‘home schooling’, they in fact attend a small alternative education facility. There is common confusion about the terminology.)

I am against standardized Government schooling. I am 17 and have been in a private school until grade 7. I have been using cambridge system in a homeschool for highschool. Some students use the standardized Government education in my homeschool. When I compare my work to theirs is where I disagree with this new rule. The Government system does not teach students how to apply their work to real life problem solving. The system is based on a ‘copy’ and ‘paste’ style of learning. It does not reach how things work.

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(Clarifying note, this child says they are ‘home schooling’, they in fact attend a small alternative education facility. There is common confusion about the terminology.)

15

I am in a homeschool in — and I was in a government school and they have not changed one rules and I found it so much better. There are over 50 000 homeschoolers in South Africa and they all have CAPS and Cambridge and the government wants to change everything. So if the government wants to change stuff what are the children gonna do.

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(Clarifying note, this child says they are ‘home schooling’, they in fact attend a small alternative education facility. There is common confusion about the terminology.)

Age 14

G school grade 0-2

Homeschool Cambridge 7-8

My opinion, I don’t want to grow up without a proper education and I don’t what our country to stay the way it is. I want our people in our country to rise to the top and when we reach the top I want us to go further. I want us to change the world for the better. We won’t be able to do this with the education we are receiving from the government.

My name is — and I hope we reach the stars and further.

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(Clarifying note, this child says they are ‘home schooling’, they in fact attend a small alternative education facility. There is common confusion about the terminology.)

Age: 17

Went to government school until grade 10.

The reason I am against standardised schooling is because I believe students have a right to choose their education. The youth should have a say in their future and how they want to achieve. Home-based learning allows students to become more responsible and creates a generation of thinkers. I have been home-schooled for the past two years and I believe I play a bigger role in my future. In normal schools for personal reasons I did not attain my full potential. The government schooling system compared to my choice of syllabus in all honesty has a lower standard.

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(Clarifying note, this child says they are ‘home schooling’, they in fact attend a small alternative education facility. There is common confusion about the terminology.)

Name: —

I am against standardised schooling. I am currently 16.

I have never attended a public school. I don’t feel that everyone should be taught the same way because that deprives us of our freedom in our schooling. Some people find the CAPS system harder and not as good as the Cambridge system. Public schools aren’t able to manage with the amount of kids they currently have and now the government wants to for more students into public school and demolish home schooling. If we lost our freedom and were forced to take action in something we didn’t want to do we wouldn’t do it properly and not much effort would go into it. If we were forced to follow an education system we didn’t like, some students wouldn’t be achieving as much, they could fail and end up with a future they didn’t want because of the government.

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(Clarifying note, this child says they are ‘home schooling’, they in fact attend a small alternative education facility. There is common confusion about the terminology.)

I am against standardised government education because if you look statistically at the Pass Rate of CAPS the Pass Rate is quite low. I’m a homeschool learner and I was in a government school from grade 0-6 and from there I entered homeschooling and what I learned from homeschool is it gives you the freedom to choose and lets kids choose what they want to be and lets them choose wherever they want to go.

Age 17

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(Clarifying note, this child says they are ‘home schooling’, they in fact attend a small alternative education facility. There is common confusion about the terminology.)

Age: 16

Went to government school from grade 1-8

Currently homeschooled from 8-10

I do not accept the law you are planning on making by standardising all schools. I believe children have the right to choose their schooling life. Children get bullied at government schools and should be to choose if they want to be homeschooled or schooled in government schools. I prefer to do homeschooling and prefer it to government school.

*

Dear Adv Rudman,

I am seven years old. I have always been homeschooled.

I think that children should be allowed to take their time to learn their schoolwork. Not everyone wants to learn the same thing at the same time.

I like homeschooling because you can learn about all the things you love and you can do it with your brothers and sisters.

Thank you for reading my note.

Good bye.

*

Dear Adv Rudman,

I am ten years old. I have been homeschooled my whole life.

I don’t agree with the law that says that all children must be using the same learning material at the same age. I believe that you can only know if you are ready to go to the next grade if you know all of your work, not by taking a test.

It’s almost like we need to be robots, doing the exact same things.

I like homeschooling because life is homeschool and learning happens where I am.

If you are sick, you don’t miss out on any work.

My favourite part about homeschool is that we read a lot.

I get to learn home duties and mathematics at the same time.

Thank you for reading my letter.

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I LOVE HOME SCHOOLING

Hello my name is –- and I love home schooling and really want to carry on. The reason we love doing homeschooling is that we learn a lot more than we would in school. We finish our work quickly and then we get to play, work in the garden and learn while doing it. Our family is also born to travel and we learn a lot while we’re traveling.  We also want to feel free to choose our own curriculum.

2017/11/06.

9 year old.

 *

To the government

I love home schooling because…

I finish my work fast but neat which means I get extra time to play. 

I love traveling with my family.

Because my family is a traveling family.

I LEARN A LOT.

I LOVE THE WAY I LIVE.      

age 9

 *

9 November 2017

The Bela Bill

My name is –-, I am 9 years old.  My mom told me about the Bela Bill.  I don’t like it at all.  I use to be in a school in gr1, but now I do school at home with my sister. I like it very much.

The reasons why I like homeschooling is because I can learn about Jesus, I see my sister and mom a lot more, I can learn what I like to learn, and my sister can learn what she likes to learn. You see, we are all different so we all want to learn different things. I don’t want to do tests. Why should I if my mommy is sitting with me and she can see if I don’t know or understand something.  She always lets me practice something I don’t know or understand, until I get it right.  

I am also a very good soccer player, yes I am a girl, and one day I want to go overseas. Now my mom says if the Bela Bill comes in I can’t study with Cambridge because I must write a South African matric.  I don’t want to. I want to write a Cambridge matric and I want to write it when I am 16.  And if I must go back to school, when will I have time to practice my soccer.  The school gives too much homework!

And also, I have so many homeschool friends and we play when we go on interesting outings or when our schoolwork is done.  Now the Bela Bill wants to take away my friends and our outings.

Please, please don’t bring the Bela Bill in, and make me go back to school.

Thank you

*

The Bela Bill

My name is –-, I am 10 years old. I use to be in a school in gr 1 and gr 2, but now I am a homeschooler.  I am writing this letter, because I don’t want the Bela Bill.  My dogs name was Bella and I liked her allot, but I do not Like this Bela.  Why I don’t like this Bela, is because this Bela wants to send me back to school.  I will die if you send me back.  You see when I was in school my tummy always hurt, I was crying every morning when I had to go to school or had headaches.  I was bullied by children in my class, I couldn’t work as fast as they do, so had to stay in during break time to finish my work.  Sometimes I didn’t eat because I was finishing my class work. When I get home, after netball, hockey or ballet I had to do homework and only finished at 11 o clock at night because I can’t work so fast.  When I had to write a test, I couldn’t sleep.  I was so afraid that I won’t remember my work. So one day I told my mom, I don’t want to live any more, I was 8 years old.  My mom took me out of school and she helped me to do school at home.  I can work on my own time, I can learn about things I like, I am not sick any more, and very happy.   I even made lots of friends and I have pen pels.

So I am asking you not to bring the Bella Bill into South Africa because I will be sad and sick again.

Thank you for reading my letter

*

#BellaBill

The reason I enjoy home-schooling is that I finish all my work by 12pm, meaning I would take the whole day to do my work if I had to follow CAPS. My parents and I have found the perfect concoction of curriculums for me, meaning I have time to think out of the box, be creative and have fun.

 I know most the birds in –- by sight and know I most of the birds in our garden by ear and sight, and if I had to follow CAPS I would not have time to study them further. I know the same amount as most fifth graders. I knew how to factorise in grade three because I was doing grade three Miquon maths which you are probably not offering. And most of the knowledge I have is from just living and researching my interests, which I will not be able do if I have to follow CAPS for there will be no time. I am good at what I enjoy and if I have to have to follow CAPS I will lose my touch.

 I also learn a lot from our travels, my family travels a lot and I have a lot of knowledge from that such as how to tell fig trees apart and that the best wood to make a fire in the wild is the black cherry tree, but if I had to follow CAPS we would not be able to travel. So as you can see the curriculum concoction I have is perfect, and some curriculums just don’t work for me and you would not want me to lose knowledge by following CAPS.

 My siblings and I already have a business which if we follow CAPS we will not be able to keep up with our customers because we are too busy working.

 So Leonardo Da Vinci, Serena and Venus Williams, Beatrix Potter, C.S. Lewis, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Andrew Carnegie, Colonel Sanders, Joseph Pulitzer, Charlie Chaplin, Louis Armstrong, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein where all home-schoolers. Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill where home-schooled because they did not cope in school, so you would not want new Einsteins to not become Einsteins because they do not cope in a school system due to the Bella Bill.

 I don’t think, I know home-schooling and freedom of choosing our own curriculum is the right thing for South Africa.  

 Age 11  

6/November/2017

*

14 Years old

Why I was taken out of school?

I hated school. People always bullied me. I tried everything I could to stop going to school because I was afraid to.

On sometime in august last year it was entrepreneurship day at school where the people in grade 7 sold things to make money and were graded on Economic Management Science. I bought food from some kids there and that night I was taken to hospital because I was drugged. The principal didn’t do anything to help so my parents took me out.

Why I like homeschool?

I like homeschool because my parents can teach me in a way I understand, I don’t have to compete with 30-odd kids for the teacher’s attention. If I’m sick I can still do school work. For example earlier on this year I got chicken pox and I still did school work because I didn’t have to worry about giving other kids it. I can do most the field exercises like asking a person who works at animal conservation on what he/she thinks about a certain thing. I can express my religion. I can interact with other homeschoolers in my community for group projects. So those are the reasons I like homeschool.

Why I don’t like the new law and don’t want it to be accepted in South Africa.

This new law states that I must go to school. Homeschooling is better. I have high functioning Autism which means I pay attention to details but is not good with socializing. If I go back to school I will be bullied about it. Think of all the kids with disabilities. How do you think they’ll cope? People will bully them verbally, physically, socially and cybercafe. They will hate school then and when you hate something you will not want to know about it. So they’ll get low grades. They’ll also attempt suicide and if they do kill themselves do you want to be responsible. All these reasons are why I don’t want this law to be accepted.

*

I am 13 years old. I object to this bill because I feel like it takes away my freedom to choose and make my own decisions as an unschooler. As a child I am capable of thinking for myself and I don’t need others to do it for me. How much does it really help Children to not even be able to choose how they want to live their lives?

*

I am a 12 year old girl. I have been to both private and public schools. I was in a school from 2 years old until end of Grade 2. I am now unschooled and learn the things that interest me. I don’t agree with the Bela Bill because children should be able to choose how they want to be taught, to learn how they want. I have been unschooling for a while and I have made excellent progress without school. My 4 year old sister does unschooled too and she is already learning to read, so we can learn without going to school. If the Bela Bill had to be passed all the progress we have made will be lost and our lives will be a lot harder. We want to be able to learn in which ever way we want and have freedom to live our lives however we like. If we had to go back to school it would be like we were going back to prison because school to me feels like being chained up and matter how hard we try we can’t break free!

*

Age 13.  Here’s how I see it, homeschooling/unschooling is giving a child/teen the freedom to learn how they want to learn and what they want to, I think that this bill is a really bad idea, it takes away the freedom of homeschooling/unschooling, the whole point of them is freedom, we should all be able to choose what we want, this is taking away any choice there was and making it that there isn’t anything choice for the future generations to choose from.

Age 9

Attended a government school until half way through Grade 3

Dear President Jacob Zuma

I am worried about the BELA Bill. It’s very scary! School was rough for me because when I didn’t understand, my mind would shut down. My teacher would shout at me because I couldn’t do the work and I even got detention.

At home my Mum helps me, and we find ways to work more creatively. My work is so much better and enjoyable.

We go places and learn so much. We do fun things, like organic gardening, beekeeping, making bread and bartering home grown veggies. School only teaches out of a book and does not teach how to live gently on the planet.

Please think about children who can’t fit in to one type of curriculum. I don’t want my Mummy to go to jail for homeschooling me – she hasn’t done anything wrong!

Yours sincerely

Grade 3

Whatsapp Comments

We also made Whatsapp available as a channel for comment since many young people find this accessible.

Here are the whatsapp responses, each date and time indicates a new message to count.

05/11/2017, 12:06 I say this shouldn’t be a law.

05/11/2017, 12:06 – ‪I don’t want the government to regulate homeschooling because I don’t want my homeschool friends to be away from me and I don’t want homeschool kids to have to go to school if they don’t want to and in school your time is abused. Homeschool allows for my rights and I don’t get punished. I want to feel equally powerful like I do at original play and I want learning to be fun. The most important thing to me about homeschooling is that I am free and we are colorblind, ageblind and accepted for who we are.

05/11/2017, 12:07  I am an 11 year old —. I am not in school. I unschool. I went to school for one year. I do not think it is a good idea to force kids to learn what the government tells them to learn. I think it’s very cruel because I do not want to be forced to learn what someone else thinks is important. How can they decide what is important for everyone? Everybody is different and you need to respect their rights. Learning on my own is awesome. I learn about the latest technology, I learn about science and nature and history and the economy and politics and how life works. Life is complicated! But not like school. School is supposed to help you, but  it just wants to give you homework. It doesn’t actually teach you about the important things. So I don’t think this law is a good idea.

05/11/2017, 12:44  age 15 .. Been in government school system since age 3

“Ek wil nie he dat dit CAPS moet wees nie omdat hulle sit te veel stres op ‘n mens en ons kry nie kans om te leer wat jy wil leer nie want dis te veel werk en te min tyd”

05/11/2017, 12:50 – ‪ age 15 been in government school system since age 4

“Focus should be people’s individual strengths and talents. Like a child in my class is so clever in all the subjects expect English and Afrikaans and so he fails and had go redo grade 8. It’s unfair because he’s failing and 15 in grade 8 just because of language questions that he cannot answer. How is he able go get to matric if they can’t focus on his strengths and how clever he is if he could rather answer verbally instead of a test that everyone has to use”

05/11/2017, 13:05 age 14 .. Been in government school system since age 4. Diagnosed with ADHD (refuse meds)

“Special children should be able to write different tests. Get better teachers that can make the lessons fun and not be so hard on the children that battle to concentrate in class and are always getting into trouble due to teachers not interested in what each child is going through and what is happening at home etc but just gets labelled as a troublemaker and gets lots of negatives in class

I’m always getting screamed at and they never retell you the lesson if you didn’t hear properly and then you fail the test and they just don’t care

This CAPS doesn’t allow any time to breathe and try and enjoy the learning experience and have a fun way to learn each subject

The only reason I actually go to school is for the sport and my friends

I just wish they gave more time to appreciate each child’s own merits

And they need to put lockers so that the other  children don’t steal our text books and then we have to pay R200 otherwise we not allowed to write the tests. It’s just not fair”

05/11/2017, 13:15  “I hate being taught at school. We don’t get enough play time and its boring. I am learning the things that I want to learn about at home” (6yrs old)

05/11/2017, 13:22   age 18. When I went to school up, until age 7, I was scared of the teachers and the older children. I couldn’t understand why I had to ask to go to the toilet or why a teacher could be inside on a hot day but I couldn’t. Sometimes I vomited when things got too much. After I was taken out of school and homeschooled I felt much safer. I have loads of friends both schooled and homeschooled. I was able to focus on my golf and qualified for SA boys 3 years running. Now I am FX trading online. I don’t feel school is good for every child. I have learnt what I want to learn when I want to. When I was 12 I wrote a school test for an American online school and got 100% for maths and 89% for english for my age group … I hadn’t followed any curriculum from age 7 and had just lived and enjoyed my life. I am happy my parents chose to homeschool me and not force me to go to school.

05/11/2017, 13:22 – ‪  (10) in school since age one – school is brining – you don’t get enough time to play – you learn things that you don’t like to learn, your teachers tell you to sit don’t and shoosh and don’t tell you things that will help you in life. I would love to do homeschooling ?✨

05/11/2017, 13:23  age 12, who was at a government primary school from grade 1 to grade 5. “It was not engaging and the children weren’t interested. I found the amount of work quite stressful. A few teachers were nice but a lot of them used to shout. One of them had a whistle. It was so loud that some of the kids had to wear ear plugs.”

05/11/2017, 13:48 — age 13. I have never been to school. I taught myself to read and write. I love music, reading and languages. For many years I have just followed my own interests. Lately I have felt I want to get some qualifications so I chose the Cambridge route and I am studying English Lang, English Lit, Spanish and Maths. Us homeschoolers are still getting an education and our parents love us very much so they shouldn’t be punished for doing what we feel is right. This Bill is not helping us children.

05/11/2017, 14:00  (10) – after 2 years of government schooling.

I had to sit there and concentrate the whole time. I could not take breaks as I needed, as I can do with homeschooling.

It was difficult to concentrate when the kids keep on talking all the time. Because I could not finish in time, I would get shouted at by the other kids. It was hard knowing that you had to finish everything today and it was very stressful.

I don’t want to be a sheep in life, I don’t want to be like other people. I feel that the government is taking everyone’s soul away…they are like vampires sucking everything out of me. School isn’t fun because at home you can gain knowledge in many different ways. We can choose the way that is best for me.

I got bullied all the time and it hurt me. It’s hard to know that in school people don’t like you for silly reasons like not running fast enough. That’s why I don’t want to go to school anymore.

I missed my family, my mum and sisters, when I was at school. I now feel much closer to them because I always get to spend time with them. I want to be like my mother because she is bold and she stands up  for me and she is my hero.

Now we can travel the country whenever we want to. We can take our learning (school) with us.

05/11/2017, 14:01 –- (8) never went to school besides pre-school.

I love my family so much. I never ever want to go back to school again because I want to be free to live my life and not be pressed to be a sheep and do what other sheep do.  I like to make things at home, like cooking and making I’ve lollies from fruit, and to explore nature.

The government is pushing little children to think that they(the government) are the best, but they are not, they are steeling our hearts.

My sister has been bullied a lot and I don’t want to go through that. I will never send my children to a school because I don’t want them to be bullied or end up being a sheep.

05/11/2017, 14:54 – —

Grade 11 with brainline(online school)

I don’t think that is is fair to make kids who worked really hard to be above the average grade to be forced to go to a lower standard or grade because we’ve already done all the work and passed the grade already. In addition it’s not fair to make homeschooled kids go to school because many have tried do apply to a government school and could not get in, so have found an alternative way, plus why should our parents have to pay for school fees, school books, uniforms etc. if they don’t even want us in the school in the first place. Some kids have difficulties learning in a school environment and do no cope with the stress and pressure that schools cause, there are many different reasons that kids are homeschooled and it’s their choice. There is far less bullying and emotional trauma caused by being homeschooled so parents that choose or have the ability to keep their kids away from that should be allowed to. If kids go from being unschooled to going to a grade and school that does not work for them it will just cause stress on the child. There are so many reasons for people choosing to keep their kids out of school, and also for kids choosing to stay out, we should have the right to make the choice we want to when it comes to ours or our kids education and well being.

05/11/2017, 15:00 – ‪ age 8, went through far too much in government school. He was bullied and teased. His teacher was a cruel brute that still practices corporal punishment and washed his mouth out with soap and threatened him into silence. He was accused of dishonesty and ended up in detention regularly and was denied break times for ridiculous reasons.

I was told he has ADHD and that he should be on drugs in order to keep up.

He has homeschooled for 4 months now and has grown so much it’s unbelievable. All the weight and misery that he carried around is gone. I will never put him back in a government school again.

In his words:

“At school I was so unhappy and they did such evil things, now at home I can learn interesting things and nobody makes me angry or sad anymore. I learn cooking and computers and math and reading, it’s so cool. I’m sad that the government wants to force us to go to school. It’s my life, I want to decide for myself.”

05/11/2017, 17:48 – : My name is –- and I am 16. I am fortunate enough to have never been to school and I am more than fine. I can read and write and learn whatever interests me. I am free. I already earn money coaching soccer and working in my family catering business. But others are not as fortunate. I have a 16 year old girlfriend who goes to school and the things that she goes through angers me. She has been subjected to bullying so many times, its scary. She is at the point where she just accepts the bullying because there is no one who can help. She says that the teachers don’t care so you don’t even go to them to tell them about being bullied. My feeling is that being forced to go to school makes you more vulnerable to being exposed bullying and drugs at a young age at school. At her school she has told me about a few friends who got mugged at gun point leaving school to go home. There are kids who have been stabbed at her school. To me it seems as if kids at school are more open to violence and teachers don’t step in. I have always felt safe and protected by my parents at home, it hurts me that my girlfriend does not feel that same protection at school. Then there’s the tests. Its just crazy. They get told about tests and exams at the last minute. She has sleepless nights worried about failing. And then worrying because the teachers don’t always score correctly or check marks. She barely gets any time off or a break. One test she wrote for almost 5 hours with no water allowed or bathroom breaks. How is that even humane?

I don’t understand how she goes to school then gets home and doesn’t even get a chance to eat lunch because she has to study for the next test?!

Government and school goers need to be more open to homeschooling, as the saying goes, don’t knock it until you try it. I haven’t met homeschooling / unschoolers who are as stressed out as my friends who attend school. And what about school fees and the other costs? Some people cannot afford the fees, the money for uniforms and books and stationary and sport clothing and then field trips or camps. If your parents can’t afford it you are made to feel left out and miss out on all of that.

I just find it so stupid that if the only way to learn was by being at a school, then why would we have access to learning at home, on the internet, in nature and everywhere around us? I learn every day and I am not at school.

Also not all schools don’t cater for people with disabilities or with different learning styles. When my mom asked me about this I thought that I wouldn’t have enough to say. But when we started discussing it, it all just started pouring out. And it really worries me that government would want to stop something that is good! How does that make any sense? My question to my mom was “does that mean that I wont be able to in school my kids one day if this bill is passed? And what about my nephew? Will he be forced to go to school?” None of this seems fair to me and I truly hope that someone will listen to our voices. We are where we belong with our families, with friends. We are loved and cared for. We are learning in the most natural way. Why would you want to take that away from anybody?

05/11/2017, 20:06 –   13, have attended school, I feel bad for children who go to school because they are being abused. That is why there is so much bullying in schools. Kids feel bad at school, so schools become a breeding ground for bullying. Just to survive in school kids need to build an outer layer around them. They don’t get to be who they are. In school, you have to be an opportunist. You have to hustle friendship. See which people would most benefit your needs and befriend them. I hang out with real friends in my own community. I get to spend more time with my family. I see no need for the schooling system. All answers are online. Learn what you need. I learn current technology by being faced with challenges while doing what I love. I learn about lore and plotlines and discovering plot holes in storytelling while having fun with my friends. Failure is not an option because I can’t leave things not done. I have to finish it. I motivate me! In school, you kinda lose that will to do stuff. School is a graveyard of spirits!

05/11/2017, 22:01 – 6, never been to school:

Why I don’t think it is a good idea is because I want to learn what I want to learn on my own. And I don’t want to go to school; I homeschool. And I don’t want to learn what all the other kids and girls learn, I want to learn what I want to learn. Right now I like jumping and running and doing tricks. I also like numbers and I can count to 400.

05/11/2017, 23:50  What I think we should do is all group up and walk I’m that building or order a meting and protest or why not do a March as in walk around for this its not fair two force us two do this I went two school when I was young I made a friend there who is still my best friend she still goes two that school it’s horrid the story’s she tells me when my brother got taken in two school with me I wasn’t allowed to go say “hi how Is your day going” but he was in the room next to me and there weren’t even doors. On One day my brother got send to the naughty corner with no food or water for about the entire day all he did was build a big tower out of Lego and some kid knocks it over he kicks it to try save it it touches the kid’s food he starts pretending to cry and tells on he has no say in what happened it was crazy

05/11/2017, 23:54 – ‪: My friend who I met in school told me a story about 3 people that erased about 4 hours of hard work and she had to restart and she failed because of them ? this makes me so mad to hear that I even screamed and it was about midnight they should not be able to force us even if they did I would get expelled from every school in South Africa till either I got hit out the country or I could be home schooled it’s simple they can’t make me what ever they do its cray to be honest I would rather die than be forced to go to school I say this because it would give me the last amount of courage I needed to just stab I have gotten really close even tried a few times this is crap and we should not be forced

06/11/2017, 08:39 – ‪ Hi, I’m 13. I have gone to a government school when I was 6 turning 7. I don’t want to go back to that curriculum. I am very happy where I am at the moment which is a homeschooling support centre called –– in –-. The government school I went to was militaristic and forced their ideals and religion on to the children. I was there for 4 years, but the only day I enjoyed was the very first one. Please do not make this a law. I also know of many people who would not agree with this. (My brother can’t be in a normal school and my friend just got out of one.) I hope this makes a difference.

06/11/2017, 09:54 – I am 9. We [children] do not belong to anyone even if they [think they] are important. Nobody can make us do what THEY want. I want to learn what interests me not what they say we have to learn. You will never get me to go to a government school.

6/11/2017, 10:52 – ‪ Hi every one.  I’m a 12 year old girl and I’ve never been to school and I know how to read and write just fine I like to learn.. and I love horse riding and I live with my mom dad sister and brother I love my family and I love spending time with them so plz and I have no problem making friends I have a lot and I’m writing this by my self thank you so much

06/11/2017, 20:25 – : I’m an unschooler and I’m 16. I went to school when I was younger. And from my experience I don’t think that this law would help in any way. All children are different, every child can only learn certain things at certain times, in different ways, and at different rates. Already school is forcing every type of child to learn specific things at specific times. And those that can learn in that way and at that stage do so easily, they are told they are fast learners and intelligent. And the other children who can’t learn in that setting and are not ready to learn that are told that they aren’t smart, and they are not going to be successful. That’s why homeschooling or alternative schooling is really important. Because kids who learn in different ways and at different times can do so. They have freedom to to learn as they understand it, and they get to wherever they need to, just in a different way. Many kids who go to school don’t have that privilege. And I don’t think you should take that away from kids who do, because maybe they can help others to find easier ways and such. I have a little brother who has some of special needs. And he doesn’t learn at the rate a school kid his age would learn. He also learns in different ways. And if this law were to be passed, I wouldn’t want to know what would happen. Because then he’s going to have to follow something that would only make things harder for him, and then he’d have to take the test and if he wouldn’t do well he’d be told he’s not very intelligent. “Everybody is and can be a genius, but if you judge a fish by it’s ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life thinking its stupid.” – Albert Einstein

07/11/2017, 12:14 – ‪‬: My naam is –- en ek is 10 jaar oud. Hulle het nie die reg nie. Ek het nou meer kenis omdat ek n tuisskooler is. Ek het nie gehou van die ander skool nie. Ek het die vriende gelike maar by tuisskool is dit beter. Ek kry nie meer hoofpyne of op gooi nie en tuisskoolers lag nie oor my beer Hotdog nie.

07/11/2017, 12:26 – ‪ My naam is –– en ek is 13 jaar oud. Ek hou van homeschool want dit is baie meer leker. Ek sein meer mense. Skool voel soos n hok. Skool werk is net herhaal en is nie soos homeschool nie. Voor homeschool kon ek nie goed lees nie. Nou kan ek. Skolle moet jy baie werk doen wat nie nodig is nie. Met homeschool kan ek op die nodige werk soos lees en met my hande werk. Skool werk is niks nuuts nie. Dit is oor en oor die selfde. Homeschool leer ek iets nuuts. En ek is meer social met ander kinders. Ek hou van homeschool.
(Translated) My name is –– and I am 10 years old. They don’t have the right. I have more knowledge because I am a homeschooler. I didn’t like the other school. I liked the friends but homeschool is beter. I don’t get headaches or throw up anymore and homeschoolers don’t laugh at my teddy bear hotdog.
(Public school till grade 4. Homeschooled since August this year.)

07/11/2017, 12:28 – ‪:

I’m 10 years old and in Grade 4. I enjoy homeschooling reason being I can work at my own pace. When I was at a school i was always scared to ask a question, because I had to always be the best and I was always afraid to ask because of my friends thinking I’m stupid. I now know no question is a stupid question. I have fun now , we use so many different ways to explain work. More out door activities. I don’t have to stress about getting the best marks but rather learn more.

07/11/2017, 12:42 – ‪‬: I’m 13 years old n in grade 7. I wanted to start homeschooling for 3 reasons: 1 I can concentrate more on my Islamic studies. 2. I was often bullied in class by my classmates, to a point that I was nearly choked to death. I would never tell my parents because I felt ashamed. 3. I was always told I’m stupid and lazy , teachers would bring me down n say I need to see a doctor. My grades fell and I was failing math….well they changed school teachers about 4 times in a year. I enjoy homeschooling, because work is explained to me at my own pace, I don’t  have anyone bringing me down. Work is more fun , more activities, videos and books. I concentrate more as I don’t have anyone distracting me from my work.

In mainstream from grade R-5 , homeschooled for grade 6 and 7

07/11/2017, 12:42 – (Translated) I am 13 years old. I like homeschool because it is much beter. I get to see more people. School feels like a cage. School work is just repeat and is not like homeschool. Before homeschool I couldn’t read well. Now I can. At school you must do a lot of work that isn’t needed. With homeschool I can learn what is needed like reading and working with my hands. School work is nothing new. Its over and over the same. Homeschool I learn something new. I am more social with other kids. I like homeschool.

(With help. Public school till grade 2. Special school till grade 4/5. Cottage school grade till grade 6. Homeschooled since August this year. ADHD, aspies, anxiety disorder and giftie in Maths)

07/11/2017, 14:37 – ‪: And when i was in school (till grade 3) i hated my life sooooo much i hate to wake up at 6 and i wanted to sleep not get up and it was a big fight every morning and uniforms are the worst i wanted to were my clothes not some silly uniform. My life is now amazing we moves to a farm and its just so pretty i looooove Homeschooling so much

08/11/2017, 11:19 – ‪‬: Hi my name is –-, I am 13 years old and I think homeschooling is better for you get more attention and that has helped me with math. This year my mom was teaching at a school and when my class did a math test I got double the marks then they got. The children where in grade 7 and didn’t even know fractions, where I already new decimals at the beginning of the year. At home I thought my spelling wasn’t good but at the school I came in 2nd place. My mom struggled to get the attention of a class of 10 and the government wants to put 60 in each class. At a school if a teacher wanted to show a volcano erupting she would have to try and draw one where she hasn’t even seen one, where as if you where homeschooled you’re mother could simply search it.

08/11/2017, 12:49 – : I am 12 years old. My name is ___. I like homeschooling a lot. At government school I got bullied a lot, I struggled to  understand and remember some of subjects and I was afraid to ask questions. I like homeschooling because I can learn at my pace, I don’t worry about bullies and if I have questions I am free to get answers. Homeschooling has taught me well. In fact I am already establishing my career.

08/11/2017, 13:00 – ‪‬: Hi I’m –- and I’m 15 years old.

I object to the Bela Bill because it will destroy my way of life.

I was in –—– school at the age of seven for a period of two weeks. The reasons my mother took me out was because I was bullied by students and teachers alike. My head got slammed against a wall for lunch money, and the teachers threw me outside the classrooms because I was too fidgety and I cried outside those classrooms, my neck nearly got broken because some random boy thought it be fine to jump on another boys neck, My neck!

I’ve been to two private schools since then.

In the first private school I was called a drug sniffer because I was sick and sniffing, the second school, I had a hard time keeping up with the class of thirty, and the government wants a minimum of sixty children in each class! Not to mention the caps books that I sometimes use at home often have incorrect answers

Since then I’ve done homeschooling with my mom and have a great mentors, my mother and father.

I have a hobby that allows me to make my own money, if the Bela Bill were to pass, I’d have to quit my hobby, just to go to a bankrupt school system that can’t even provide the right resources, not to mention bullying and teachers that hammer you down.

I have my rights, as stated by the constitution.

Is the Bela Bill trying to tear down what Nelson Mandela worked so hard to complete?

09/11/2017, 09:22 – ‪‬: Hi my name is ––, I am 10 years old.  My mom chose to homeschool me, cause I was bullied, a lot.  I was kicked in the head, I was pushed off the jungle gym, stabbed with a pencil and punched by a group of students.  And I was told that I was causing this reaction…I was also bullied by the teachers.  As a result my schooling suffered, I stopped absorbing or understanding any work.  The reason why I don’t want Homeschooling to be taken away is because my mom took me back to basics and I now understand my work more then I did in school.  I like to read now more then I did then.  Before I started school I was a very happy child, and I slowly became sad and scared.  I am now feel happy and free and safe again.  I also have very sensitive skin and I can’t wear certain clothing because it hurts or irritates my skin, I don’t like uniforms. In normal school, I could not concentrate, there were too many distractions.  In Homeschooling I can concentrate and I have time to ask questions and research the answers.  

Homeschooling helps me grow into the unique person God created me to be.

  • Dear Department  EducationI heard what was going to happen with the Cap system. Please don’t allow this I don’t wasn’t to go back to the  Government schools!!! I love being home schooled it’s the best! I love it because I have time for horse riding , dancing and going to the library, all of that. I also love being home schooled because my mom makes the work fun. I love being home schooled because I get to spend time with my mom. I love being home schooled because I’m not being held back in my work, I’m always working not waiting for the rest of the class, like I always had to do in the Government schools. I don’t want to go to a Government school because they held me back, they made the work boring, my mom makes it fun, I know you won’t hear this a lot but my mom makes maths fun, I never thought that I would say that. I love being home schooled I get better grades too. Do u realize that some people can’t afford to be in a Government school, its so much cheaper to be home schooled. Please don’t make me go back to the Government schools I really didn’t like it there. Please change your mind about the Cap system. I like ACE! I love being home schooled please don’t take that away from me.

    God bless

    Parents’ comments.

While collecting comments from children, this parent chose to comment on the child’s behalf since they felt that for the child to comment directly would not be in the child’s best interest, since traumatic incidents were involved. They now use alternative natural learning instead of a structured education program.

05/11/2017, 13:12 – ‪ My eldest two daughters were verbally sexually harassed by the pastors son. The eldest attended a small Christian based government school, and my 2nd born was at the pre-school which was on the school premises. We tried working with the said boy’s parents and ended up taking our concerns to the school, pre-school and school hostel committees. It was dealt with poorly. School became a prison for my eldest, she was not free to move around freely, always had to be aware of where this boy is and to stay away from him. At the end of that same year my eldest was sucker-punched on her back during compulsory sports period by a boy two years older than her, whilst under supervision of 1 teacher and 3 student teachers. The school’s response was that they could not do anything about it because no one saw the incident and the boy and his friends, who were witnesses to what happened,  denied it ever happening. Now, two years later, when you ask my girls if they want to go to school, they say they are too scared because bad things happen. They are not protected.

 

I went to the police station to report both incidents..the detective informed me of the following:

 

1) any child under the age of 12 is criminally unprosecutable. Assault,  sexual abuse,  harassment, etc. You as a parent can not press any criminal charges.

 

2) The government classifies any sexual transgressionary behaviour within a 3 year age gap as natural curiosity.

 

In our case, our eldest was deemed to fall within that category. Our youngest was 4 years younger than said boy, but because he was under the age of 12, we could not have him charged with a sexual offence.  

The detective looked at me and said, ” Mevrou, mag ek vra, na alles, hoekom is jou kinders nog in daardie skool? My beste raad is, vat hulle dadelik uit.”

 

That’s what we did, we removed our eldest from the school and cancelled our 2nd born’s enrollment with the school…and so started our homeschool journey.

 

With the current rate at which our children are criminally affected whilst in the care of schools, teachers and caregivers, there is absolutely no way that my girls will ever attend another school, either government or private.

 

We enjoy being at home together, going out for our activities. We see everything about living life as a learning opportunity. In our home we don’t do school or learning, we view and approach it as gaining knowledge..about anything and everything.

 

Objections to the BELA Bill, Part 1

There is an urgent and important need for amendment to the Basic Education laws of South Africa.

The problem with the current proposal, is that it is almost exactly the opposite of what is needed.

Instead of remedying the current problems, it is likely to escalate them, leading to the possible collapse of our basic education system due to civil disobedience, rather than supporting sustainable change that can lead us out of the current national educational disaster, towards educational success.

There are a several logical and conceptual problems right at the foundation of current policy, which need to be addressed. Instead of addressing these problems, the BELA Bill entrenches and compounds them.

 

  • Problem 1: The Child’s Right to Education. Not the Government’s Right To Educate.

 

Fact: The child has the right to education. The parents and the government have the obligation to support the child in fulfilling their right to education.

The current law has this fact exactly backwards, and the BELA Bill entrenches and compounds this confusion instead of correcting it. The current law and the BELA Bill are founded on the mistaken belief that the government has the right to control the child’s education even when this control undermines instead of supports the child’s right to education.

Fact: The government does not have either the automatic or the exclusive right to educate the child. The child and family do not have any constitutional obligation to make use of any government educational services at all.

Our current education policy and laws conflate the individual child’s right to education and the state’s obligation to provide basic education resources to all children, with an obligation for children and families to make use of government education services and comply with a national curriculum and assessment process.

Traditionally, the government has behaved as if the right to education is the government’s right and not the child’s right. This is a leftover of Apartheid and part of South Africa’s long legacy of authoritarian colonial control.

Fascist, colonial and totalitarian states and religious authorities developed ‘schooling’ in order to indoctrinate the populace and train it to be submissive and economically manipulable. State-controlled schooling is a tool designed for cultural homogenisation and the obliteration of diversity, and has no justifiable place in educational policy of the post-Apartheid democracy of South Africa.

In the past, the government traditionally, conveniently, conflated ‘education’ with ‘state-controlled schooling and curriculum.’ In previous generations this was easy to get away with, since there simply were not many alternatives for children to access, and in many places the only way to become educated was to go to school.

In 2017 there are a plethora of ways for children to meet their educational needs, and given the unique needs of every child, they need to be free to access what is in their individual best interest. Around the globe a vast number of children have self-educated completely without any of the trappings of conventional schooling such as curricula and assessments, and an even greater number are currently doing so. The increase in these numbers is not only in South Africa, it’s a global phenomenon, a natural and appropriate response to evolving culture and technology.

“Education” and “school” are no longer synonymous (if they ever were).

The right of the child to education, is the right of the child to access what they personally need in order master sufficient literacy and numeracy that they have the ability to learn and explore their options, and have real choice about their role in life. Nothing about this right has any necessary or automatic relationship to government schooling services.

To say that because the child absolutely must have the opportunity to become numerate and literate, therefore they can by default be forced to attend a government-approved school, or by default be forced to follow specific curricula or pedagogical methods, is a politically opportunistic conflation that has no grounds in the constitution.

Forcing compliance with state-controlled education through threat and punishment is a shameful legacy, not a proud innovation. It is time to change the laws the government has historically used to leverage education as a tool of oppression.

Remedy needed: reword all legislation to clarify that the child has the right to educational support from the government, but no obligation to use this support if their educational needs are sufficiently met without it.

 

  • Problem 2: The Implicit, Unproven Assertion That Government Schooling and a National Curriculum are in the Child’s Best Interest.

    Given that “A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child” (South African Constitution 28.2) state convenience is not sufficient grounds for forcing school attendance and/or compliance with a state-sanctioned curriculum.

 

It must be shown beyond reasonable doubt that such attendance and compliance is in the individual child’s best interests before such attendance and/or compliance can be recommended, let alone prescribed.

Fact: If making use of government schools and curricula are not in the child’s best interest, and sabotage the optimal fulfillment of the child’s right to education, the family has the obligation to not use these services.

There is no constitutional or human rights grounds for imprisoning anyone for choosing not to make use of government education services, whether that imprisonment be for 6 weeks, for 6 months, or for any term at all.

There is certainly constitutional and human rights grounds to prosecute anyone who prevents a child from fulfilling their educational needs according to the best interests and specific needs and choices of that individual child.

The initial results of an informal internet poll hosted on this site, freely available to all members of the public, show that an overwhelming majority of respondents do not agree that government schooling and the CAPS curriculum are in the best interests of the child.

In response to the question –

The Education Department apparently believes that the current version of South African government schooling and the CAPS curriculum: 1) are in the child’s best interests; 2) affirm the child’s dignity, equality and freedom; 3) improve the child’s and family’s quality of life; 4) and free the potential of the child; Are they right? Is this true?

– so far only 5 voters have voted ‘yes’, while 242 voters have voted ‘no’.

This means that the vast majority, approximately 98% of respondents, do not agree that current educational services provided by the South African government fulfill the vision of our constitution.

This poll is by no means a comprehensive research tool, but it does give a strong initial indication that significant research is necessary to substantiate the government’s unexplored assumption that current government educational services are in the child’s best interest.

The onus must be on the government to plausibly demonstrate (not just claim) that government schooling and the CAPS curriculum do indeed serve the best interests of children in general and the individual child in particular, rather than only serving the convenience of the state. If the state cannot show this, then the state is not fulfilling its obligation to provide educational services.

It does indeed appear that for a vast number of individual South African children, attending a government school, and/or complying with the national curriculum, is not in their best interests and actively interferes with their optimal education.

This means that there is actually constitutional grounds for charging education department officials with violating the child’s right to education if that child’s family is pressured or forced into compliance with current educational policies.

The law (and the BELA Bill) and the constitution are incompatible, and this needs to be rectified as a matter of urgency.

The state cannot morally or constitutionally justify prosecuting those who actively support the child’s right to education, while allowing those who violate the child’s right to education, to make laws to protect their own political agendas.

If our laws and policies continue to do this, this will be cause for civil disobedience against an unjust and inhumane regime that supports it’s own interests at the expense of its citizens, and South Africa will once again need to initiate the kind of political change that we achieved with the end of Apartheid.

Remedy needed: amend the wording of all laws that deal with the child’s right to education, to clarify that it is a crime to prevent or interfere with a child fulfilling their right to education according to the individual best interests of the child.

 

  • Problem 3: Home Education is the Constitutionally Supported Default for Education, Not School.

 

Basic Education is officially part of the South African Social Services cluster.

The Constitution makes clear that children’s needs for social services are in the first instance, met through the family. Where the family cannot manage to meet the child’s needs, the state steps in – and then, only to provide support. Only where there is outright neglect or abuse, does the state step in more actively.

For example, children by default, live at home with their family.  Where the family cannot afford a roof over their heads, the state provides child support funds and government housing. Further, the family may decide to board the child apart from the family, without asking state permission. Only where there is actual significant abuse or neglect demonstrable in a court of law, is the child removed into state care.

The idea that children should in the first instance live in a government orphanage, and that parents should specially apply for the state to actively supervise them in order for them to care for their child at home, would be ridiculed in our country. The idea that a family may not choose for the child to stay over or even live with friends or relatives, at their discretion, without government permission, would also be laughable.

Likewise, with healthcare, there is no obligation to use state services if home care is sufficient, and families are free to choose private care without reservation. Government health services are for use by families at their discretion, as needed.

Similarly, the child in the first instance meets their educational needs through the family.  The family is free to choose resources and people to meet the child’s educational needs. Where the family is not able to meet the child’s educational needs, the state must provide support. This could be through schools and curricula. It could also (possibly more effectively and affordably) be through toy libraries and reading clubs, or other provisions.

Families have the right to choose whether or not to use outside educational services, and as such, the right to choose which educational services to use, if they do.

Only where there is significant abuse or neglect demonstrable in a court of law, can the constitution support that the child be ordered into attendance at a government education facility, or forced to comply with state-prescribed curricula and assessments.

Our current law and common practice is unconstitutional.

How did we get here?

Our current practice and law is a leftover of the previous, oppressive Apartheid regime.

Under Apartheid, the main purpose of education was to indoctrinate children with state propaganda. It was necessary to suppress alternative educational influences, so that brainwashing would be as complete as possible.

Unless the current government has the same aim, then it is high time our Basic Education Law gets updated to align with our new constitution. And if our current government does have the same aim, then it is time for the people of South Africa to wake up and do what needs to be done.

Remedy needed: amend all legislation to clarify that the child has the right to choose their own educational resources, supported by the family and the state. Remove all wording that implies that government schooling and compliance with national curricula and assessments is obligatory.

 

  • Conclusion

 

There is a popular story that takes various forms, about a woman who always cut off the bottom part of her ham before cooking it. When her daughter asked why, she said that was what her own mother had done. When the daughter asked the grandmother why, it turned out that the grandmother’s pan was simply too short to fit a whole ham. The mother, with a larger pan, was trimming her ham for no reason at all.

The fact that we used to do things in a certain way is no reason to keep doing them that way once circumstances change and a new approach is needed. We no longer live in a world where only the teacher or pastor can read, and only the school has books and pencils. We live in a world where we can access world class lessons and teachers at the click of a link, no desk, pencil or textbook necessary.

The fact that we have made mistakes in the past is no reason to continue making them once we know better. Doing as the previous government did, simply because ‘that’s the way we do things’ is not the way to run a country.

Governance is a matter for best practice, not habit or convenience.

We have our constitution for good reason. It was forged through the blood, sweat and tears of our heroes and our people.

It is not to be contemptuously ignored.

The stated aim of our constitution is, inter alia, to “Heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights; Lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law; (and) Improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person.” The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996

It is time our Basic Education Laws were amended to fulfill that intent.

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Adhd, Odd, Dyslexia et al

There is a raging debate about whether ‘disorders’ such as ADD, ADHD, ODD, DYSLEXIA etc, ‘exist’, or are marketing myths designed to sell drugs and therapeutic interventions, or are the result of a tragic attempt to do good unto others without sufficient insight, or …

There is no denying that there is a huge range of human diversity in terms of activity levels, attention spans, strength of will, reactivity, learning styles, etc.

The question is, at what point (if ever) do we label a difference as ‘problem’ that needs a solution whether medical or otherwise.

Self-directed learning initiatives don’t seek to determine on someone else’s behalf whether or not ‘they’ ‘have a problem’. If someone feels that they themselves have a problem of some kind, they will be supported as they figure out what they want to do with it, or not.

There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that these types of ‘problems’, like most human problems, are interactive.

Time and research will tell us:

  • Can ‘Hyperactivity’ still be a problem where there is no restriction on activity levels?
  • Can ‘ADD’ still be a problem when people are not required to shift their attention away from what matters to them, in favour of somebody elses’ priorities?
  • Can ‘ODD’ still be a problem in a situation where everyone else is skilled in and practising flawless NVC(non-violent communication)?
  • Can ‘Dyslexia’ still be a problem when people are allowed to learn at their own pace without age-pegged milestones; are free to explore how their own brains work and gain mastery over their own thought processes; happily make use of modern developments such as voice-controlled technology?
  • Can any of these ‘disorders’ still be a problem, when external assumptions and expectations are released, allowing the individual to fully develop according to their own uniqueness, and contribute to the world in their most unique way?
  • Are some or all of these ‘disorders’ actually critically useful talents that complete our human ‘group intelligence’?
  • Could these traditionally suppressed talents (along with autism and possibly other ‘disorders’, too) be part of what makes the difference between a species’ self-extermination trajectory, and the development of a cooperative reality where humans  thrive as part of a healthy planet Earth?

Self-led learning environments give us the opportunity to find out.

Do you know of any interesting research or personal experiences that explore this? Please comment so that everyone can benefit.

Here are a few places to start:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201603/adhd-creativity-and-the-concept-group-intelligence

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201009/experiences-adhd-labeled-kids-who-leave-typical-schooling

The Power of Boredom

The Power of Boredom

“I’m bored!” my son announced.

“How exciting!” I said. “Stay with it. See what happens.”

I have a pet saying I’ve developed over the years: “If necessity is the mother of invention, curiosity is the father, and boredom is the au pair.” And, like the proverbial Mary Poppins’ effect on the Banks family, boredom can have powerful effects on the human creative process.

When there’s no necessity driving us, and nothing has peaked our curiosity, boredom is there to take care of that human creative inventive spark, and take it somewhere unexpected.

Boredom is the empty space that allows something new to emerge. As the saying goes, you can’t add anything to a full cup. Only when the cup is empty, can something new come in.

Boredom works best when we stay with that edgy feeling of emptiness, patient, mindful, trusting; rather than rushing to escape by filling the cup quickly with whatever is easy to find.

Problem is, our instant-gratification culture believes that boredom is dangerous, and entertainment is the answer.

Financial Gain is the god, and as entertainment moves from being something we do, to something we pay for, boredom becomes the blood sacrifice.

Boredom is indeed dangerous – if you want sheeple.

Boredom, and the restlessness it comes with, provides the perfect soil for original and unexpected ideas to unfold. Boredom allows something to arise from the inside, from our uniqueness, from our inner spark. It is one of the forms of silence that allows that soft inner voice to speak up.

Entertainment, on the other hand, is another chance for all those outer voices to drive us. Entertainment fills us up – and shuts us up.

Financial Gain is delighted when we rush to fill kid’s boredom. Give them a movie, give them a new computer game, new toys, take them for a pizza. Ka-ching. Teach them to consume, and teach them the heresy that boredom is the sign that they need to spend some cash.

“Don’t wander around aimlessly like that! It gets on my nerves! Do something useful with your time!” sounds like good parental guidance, but sadly, it can stop kids from connecting to their passions and their dreams.

Our modern kids’s world is filled wall-to-wall with prescriptive curriculums, extra murals, homework, screen time and family obligations. Where do the kids today find the silence to allow their deep inner guidance to emerge?

When last did your child have the time to ramble in forest or field, going nowhere in particular, poking a stick at the long grass and noticing shapes in the clouds?

My son looked at me like I was crazy, but he already knew his mom has some funny ideas. Knowing I wasn’t going to help him with his boredom ‘problem’, he made a half-hearted attempt to get some screen time.

“If there’s something you’re deeply driven to do that needs a screen, sure. But if you’re just looking to shut off the boredom, rather give it some space, and see what happens.” I replied.

He mooched around looking sulky, for a few more minutes. Then, the change began. He started looking thoughtful. Then excited.

Five minutes later he was scrabbling through the recycling, looking for materials to construct a lever-driven pump for the squeezable water filter that makes his hands tired. Inventing something.

And the most important thing about this is: I would never, not ever, have thought to suggest that activity. Nobody would have thought of that as his next thing to do. Only that little inner voice inside him, given space to grow.

Democracy means allowing all voices to be heard. Boredom opens the space for an important voice to speak.

P.S. Boredom should not be confused with the frustration that arises from under-stimulation. If someone doesn’t have plentiful access to tools, materials, peers, mentors, and information that they need in order to learn and thrive, we sometimes use the word ‘bored’ when something like ‘rootbound’ or ‘intellectually starving’ might be more accurate. Self-directed education requires a rich environment. A rich environment (including socially rich) can be the main difference between effective unschooling/self-directed learning, and neglect.

Why even happy “unschoolers” join Democratic Education Communities

mechano

What’s Different About A Democratic Education Community? 

By now most of us know that a Democratic Education Community is a place where children are 100% free to learn according to their own interests and without coercion.

Great.

But, if our family is already “unschooling”, then why pay money and invest effort and petrol in getting kids to a Democratic Education Community?

And if our family already makes use of a relaxed, zero-pressure homeschooling centre or social group, isn’t that already a DEC, just the name is different?

What’s different about a Democratic Education Community? 

1) A DEC is a learning community.

The level of peer-to-peer learning and interaction is far higher at a Democratic Education Communitythan in your home, unless you have several dozen kids. Your child’s range and richness of interaction with adults is also quantumed.

A social space that is both bigger and beyond the family zone also allows kids opportunities to experiment with identity and widen the scope of their exploration of self and relationship.

Intermittent social gatherings are a great way to have fun and socialise – but they cannot match the ongoing, cumulative interaction that can develop in a long-term consistent togetherness.

A homeschool centre that the child regularly attends can create a sense of community and the opportunity for deepened interaction. But there is another level of bonding and relating that happens when there is joint responsibility for the whole endeavour. Which brings us to… 

2) At a DEC, the kids are co-creators.

At a homeschool or resource centre, the child is a client who is free to make use of what is offered.

They may be able to make suggestions and requests, but somebody else will decide what actually happens.  Essentially they have what they have and get what they get, and sometimes it’s enough.

The same goes for home: you have the house and grounds that you have, and family members can’t be changed.

Children are heavily dependent on the good will of adults, and often due just to life’s necessities, their needs and wants come second, and often aren’t met.

At a Democratic Education Community each and every child has real democratic power to campaign for changes to anything and everything – from structures and equipment, to the staff.

They can work to co-create their ideal learning environment.

Of course that means they also have power over…

3) Resources

At a Democratic Education Community each child is a co-creator. They have direct influence over how space is used and how budgets are spent.  Nothing exists at a Democratic Education Community unless the kids want it to be there.

Will there be a sandpit? Or a treehouse? A movie editing suite? A pasta machine? A forge? It’s not up to the adults alone to decide what should be prioritised.

At home, if there’s no sewing machine and nobody can sew, and nobody can give you a lift to sewing class, you do without. At a homeschool centre, there may be a sewing machine, but they’re teaching skirts when you want to make oven gloves. Or, you want a potter’s wheel, instead.

At a Sudbury, kids don’t have to wait to be offered organic chemistry, or metalwork, or algebra. If they want it, the system is in place whereby they can make it happen. This is especially important if their interests are particular.

It is as viable, at a Sudbury, to get support learning how to write in cuneiform, how to spin cotton into thread, mastering towel-origami or boat making, learning Java or hairdressing, as it is to get support in learning to read.

Budget is the only limit, and even there, kids are supported in learning how to fundraise.

Parents with their own busy lives can find it difficult to keep up with the resources and attention that children often need to optimise their learning. Full-time Democratic Education Community staff have dedicated work hours for entirely that.

The other thing about the Democratic Education Community resources is that they are… 

  1. Always accessible.

At home, the woodwork tools may be right there in the garage, but the adults are too busy to help today. Or tomorrow.

At those homeschool centres organised enough to even offer woodwork, very often by necessity it is a case of “on Thursday you can make a chair. If you want to make a dollhouse on Tuesday, sorry for you.”

At a Sudbury, kids are empowered to get what’s needed, access it when wanted, and get help from a range of peers, adults, and remote resources such as internet tutorials.

If kids want a lesson, they can arrange to have a lesson.

And.

Musical instruments, tools and materials also just stand there, tempting, in the absence of any kind of lesson.

This gives kids opportunities to just experiment and explore, vs focussing on standard “lessons” and finished products – an incredibly important way to learn deep, and nurture creativity.

This is powerfully important for keeping intact the child’s initiative and inborn talent for… 

  1. Natural Learning.

Adults often judge kids as fickle or foolish if they “just fiddle” with something. They can be triggered when children just “mess around” without any clear goal, or when there is a goal, “don’t finish what they start.”

In a Democratic Education Community environment, staff work on themselves to drop these judgements and respect the child’s innate wisdom in managing their own learning process.

The child who just mixes colours and doesn’t get around to painting them onto the paper this time…

The child who starts carving a spoon but just whittles a while and then walks away…

The child who learns half the alphabet and then stops any kind of reading activity for the rest of the year…

…Is following their own perfect personal lesson plan.

Everyone knows you cannot possibly master anything complex in a single sitting. Adults like to break things down into “lessons”, “modules”, “chapters”, “instalments”.

So do kids.

Their own systems know exactly what and how much they are ready for, this time. Also, how long they need to integrate that before they will be ready for next.

This is where the Democratic Education Community staff train themselves to provide a unique kind of … 

  1. Holistic educational support.

The tragic result of pushing a child to “persevere” beyond the end of their innate desire, is to create an aversion in them – just as eating too much of even your favourite food can make you ill.

Well-meaning adults can destroy a child’s natural attraction to a subject, and influence them to  dislike and avoid an activity they would otherwise happily return to when they are next ready.

“But isn’t it also important to learn to complete things? Discipline and excellence?”

Yes. And, as long as well-meaning adults haven’t given them an aversion to it, it’s yet another lesson that kids will eventually learn – as, how and when they are ready,

The critical thing that Democratic Education Community staff realise, is that it’s impossible to predict “from the outside” what constitutes a “whole” learning experience.

In “The Art of Doing Nothing”, Hanna Greenberg writes about the girl who “found it more useful to use her time at school to concentrate on socializing and organizing dances than to hone the writing skills she would need for her chosen career as a journalist…. By dealing with people directly rather than observing them from the sidelines, she learned more about them and consequently achieved greater depth and insights, which in turn led to improved writing.” (Sudbury Valley School press 1992)

Democratic Education Community staff actively cultivate profound professional humility, and work to free themselves of the kind of highly invested attachment that parents can’t help but experience.

This frees the child to pursue full and rounded personal mastery, without the pressure of having to justify their choices and activities, and without being pushed into self-doubt and off track.

This is one reason why it is so important that Democratic Education Community is founded on the concept that all people have the power to know their own good, and the right to make decisions. Everyone at Sudbury, regardless of age, is equal, and free  to participate in the…

  1. Democratic decision-making system.

Just like everything else at Sudbury, nobody is forced to attend school meetings, and nobody is forced to vote.

However, for those with future careers in law, governance, activism, or anything at all that requires the ability to lobby, communicate, and administrate, Democratic Education Community offers an incomparable learning opportunity.

In a regular kid’s debating team, kids get to spend a few hours cooking up clever arguments for and against statements such as “No Man Is An Island.”

Great.

At Sudbury, a passionate child can spend the entire year researching, lobbying, constructing convincing arguments, public speaking and engineering to get a tennis court built, or a pizza oven, or to buy a piano, or Google glass, or VR equipment.

It almost doesn’t matter what the focus is: the process is a phenomenal learning experience.

Where else can you get that?

Both the democratic School Meeting and the conflict resolution processes allow an enormous amount of powerful learning and skills acquisition in fields that are hard to “teach” in any artificial way.

I would go so far as to call this Democratic Education’s “Secret Weapon #2”, second only to #1, what Daniel Greenburg has dubbed “Sudbury Valley’s Secret Weapon”…. 

  1. Allowing people of different ages to mix freely at school.

A child who may have difficulty relating to a much younger or older sibling, can find it easier to relate to a differently-aged child who is not part of the same family politics.

Children in a large learning community have a better chance of finding partners with common interests or compatible abilities, and benefit from interacting across different skill levels.

Children who are not trapped in lesson-based settings that create natural separation between learners of different ages, sizes and levels of ability, can learn from each other not in spite of different levels of ability, but because of them.

When Democratic Education Community kids want a mentor, guide or instructor, they often seek out another child, rather than an adult. Daniel Greenberg has some powerful insights into this, which I will over-simplify and summarise in just a few lines (but I highly recommend further reading!)

Essentially, when the age/developmental level/competence gap is too big, as between a 4 year old and a 40 year old, there can sometimes be such a huge difference in perception and experience, that there is, in Greenberg’s words,  “the lack of a common line of communication. They are not talking on the same level (and so) The more the adult explains to the child, the less the child understands.”

A child who is only just “ahead” still knows what it is to struggle, and can still comprehend the textures of the previous stage of understanding.

In return, their assistance to the child just “behind” gives the child who is “ahead”, the opportunity to integrate, consolidate, and articulate their own new gains. It helps them to make their implicit learning explicit, and take it to a new level.

So…

What’s different about a Democratic Education Community?

Enough that you’re ready to let the child/ren in your life find out for themselves?

– Je’anna Clements 2015