Social Media is veritably ablaze – especially in homeschooling circles – since the Department of Basic Education (DBE) released the draft of the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill, otherwise known as the “BELA Bill”, on the 13th October 2017 and invited public comment. (Deadline for comment closes on 10 November 2017, which is just one week away!)

This is possibly the most important piece of educational legislation since 1996
– and the DBE deems it suffice to allow less than one month for comment! –
and as such THIS REQUIRES YOUR AND MY URGENT ATTENTION AND COMMENT!

OUR STANCE

It is important that we not panic, nor allow a spirit of fear to encroach into our homes, homeschooling and families. Fear is certainly not of God (aside of course, from a reverential fear of Him); and it tends to cloud judgement, clarity of thought and our ability to reason clearly.

Given that research across the world shows unequivocally that on average
homeschoolers significantly outperform mainstream scholars on an academic front

(not to mention in so many other areas too – but that’s the topic for another blog post, on another day!)…
…I have to say that I’m more than a little exasperated at what appears to me to be a proposed Bill from the DBE
that is clearly meddling with – and apparently trying to “fix” – something that is in fact not broken!

One cannot help feel that the DBE should rather be placing its attention, efforts, funding and valuable time
behind trying to address an educational system in South Africa that is limping along and – when last measured –
was floundering at position 75 out of 76, in a ranking table of education systems drawn up by the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 2015! (The Economist)

That said, we believe that many of the proposed amendments are unconstitutional; impractical and do not have consistency in their structure; and for this reason, it is imperative that we take this opportunity to express comment, condemning said inconsistencies and unconstitutional proposals, before they have any chance to gain momentum!

In terms of God’s perfect guidance in His Word, we as parents – and not ANY government department – are first and foremost responsible for the well-being of our children. Consequently, this is not a time for families to draw back in fear; rather, we all (and I mean all – whether families are registered with the DBE or not) need to be bold in our assertion of – and commitment to – ensuring the rights and best interests of our children now – and in the generations to come!

Please, do not brush this aside in the hopes that someone else will hopefully act.
I truly believe that this is a potential “tipping point” in education and more to our personal focus – homeschooling – in SA;
and it is therefore VITAL that each and every citizen in SA that cares about education, take this opportunity to comment!
It is better to defend legitimately occupied ground, than to lose it in the hopes of trying and recover it again down the line.

At the risk of sounding melo-dramatic, it is a truism that “evil prospers when good men do nothing”… PLEASE, now is the time to do something! (I appeal also to leaders of Homeschool Support Groups etc. to please encourage the individuals in your group to submit comment. Groundswell is what we need.)

I encourage you, your family and other fellow homeschoolers, to commit this to prayer and seek wisdom from our Lord Jesus Christ in how to proceed with your comment submission.

2 Corinthians 10:4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds

The fact remains that whether you have a Biblical world-view or not,
it is vital that we – that is each and every one of us
submit comment on or before 10 November!



QUICK BACKGROUND FACTS:

You can read the Bill at https://goo.gl/6sXAG8 and send your submission to rudman.d@dbe.gov.za

Karin van Oostrum from Pestalozzi Trust – the legal defence fund for home and civil education – has compiled a very comprehensive Getting To Know BELA FACT/ACT Sheet – I encourage you to take a few minutes to read and familiarise yourself with it.

WHAT CAN YOU DO – ACTION TO BE TAKEN:

Please:

  1. Ensure that you put in your own submission even if it’s short!
  2. Send in a submissions in your own words (try to avoid using a form letter – or at the very least modify/personalise it – one original letter is worth more than 100 copied form letters.)
  3. Key Points in your submission could also include wording to the effect that:
      • the Bill is impractical,
      • the Bill is prejudicial to your Constitutional rights as a homeschooler, (please also feel free to speak up for not only the issue(s) that most concerns you, but for others too. E.g. School parents & SGBs (school governing bodies) should speak up for home schooling. E.g. English speakers should speak up for language rights of non-English speakers. E.g. Religious organisations should speak up for parents’ rights in general including these other groups. Let us be united in our support of and for one another, with the express intention of ensuring that education in South Africa improves.)
      • the Bill negatively affects Homeschooling (over regulation takes away curriculum and final exam choice and the power of the state to refuse home schooling and drives up costs). This is the last resort backup choice for all if they are not happy with local schools.
      • the Bill negatively affects Public school governing bodies (takes away powers to choose teachers; language policy; admissions policy)
      • the Bill negatively affects Teachers rights and their spouses (forced disclosure of information; work conflict if parents are not happy with the state’s choice)
      • the Bill negatively affects Parents’ rights (via SGB’s and home schooling).
      • the Bill negatively affects Language rights (parents right to decide policy)
      • the Bill negatively affects Religious ethos rights (parents right to choose teachers that will uphold their ethos)
      • the Bill is inconsistent in it’s requirements for mainstream children and home educated children – both of which are Constitutionally recognised avenues of education in South Africa.
      • The DBE has not consulted with Home educators.
      • Extreme disappointment that you have not been given an extension to the comment period, combined with wording to the following effect: “The very limited lead time that the DBE has allowed for comment since the release of the Bill on 13 October, is highly prejudicial to my ability to compile an adequately researched comment. I am therefore submitting under protest, as I require more time till 15 February 2018. In light of this, I request that you also be prepared to accept supplementary late submissions.” (Albeit that the DBE has refused requests for extension of time, we must maintain our position that we need more time, especially in support of organisations like Pestalozzi Trust; not to mention Independent school bodies like ISASA etc. who too need to build a defence.)
  4. Join the BELA Bill Facebook page to be kept up to date as this unfolds – https://www.facebook.com/groups/BELABill/
  5. Submit by the deadline of 10 November and send your submission to: rudman.d@dbe.gov.za.
  6. Please email a copy of your submission to defensor@pestalozzi.org

I close with the words of one commentator which I recently read…

“This campaign doesn’t end on 10 November 2017. We must keep up the momentum. The covering letter from Dept Education says they just want your comment to ‘fine-tune’ the bill. We don’t want this. We want major changes. We want more rights for parents and SGBs – not less rights. This campaign needs to carry on for the next 12 months at least and gain not lose momentum till the bill is scrapped or substantively changed.”

Please share this post and appeal to your mailing and social media contacts to also submit comment. Thank you.