I have always felt that fear is not a particularly good motivator. Sure, an initial scare will get people moving in a predetermined direction, and it’s true that one can always count on the “sheeple” factor too: some will act out of fear simply because others are doing so. For motivators who rely on this modus operandi, however, the passage of time becomes an enemy. People don’t like living with fear. They eventually question why it cannot be removed, and may become resentful, even non-co-operative with the touted remedy.
I am one of those who refuses to live with any unfounded anxiety, if I can help it. I cannot have a productive, peaceful and happy homeschooling environment if I have to keep looking over my shoulder. It seems to me that many, if not most, home educators consider it par for the course that, not only will they have to face a fear of the authorities, but that the government will be a sworn enemy at all times. How sad. How unnecessary.
In a world where everyone is trying to sell us something based on our natural fears, peace is something we have to work for. So, what is it that you’re afraid of, homeschooler? Are you picturing yourself in prison? Your children taken from you by Welfare? What are you prepared to do to settle those questions in your mind once and for all? Are you prepared to do the work? And what is that, anyway?
Well, firstly, as a South African, you live in a constitutional democracy. There are laws that govern every aspect of education in this country – in every form that it takes, whether conventional public, private, home or, indirectly, illegal schooling. All you need, is to know exactly what those laws say. Laws are there so that you DON’T get into trouble; they are meant to help you, not trick you. Yes, there may be things which, even after repeated reading, you still do not understand. At that point, you ask someone who knows more than you do. Eventually, with enough perseverance, after perhaps hundreds of questions posed to many sources, you will get it. But surrendering your efforts to know, and outsourcing your responsibility to understand the legal milieu in which you have CHOSEN to live, seems a lamentable defeat.
The main laws which govern education in South Africa are the Constitution and the South African Schools Act (SASA.) Thereafter, each province has its own schools act. Acts of Parliament cannot be changed without public consultation and parliamentary scrutiny. If you are an interested parent, engaging with others of the same mindset, it is highly unlikely that any changes to homeschooling law will happen without your knowledge. In Part 2, we will investigate what the Constitution and SASA say about the freedom to educate as you see fit.
Home education waters have become muddied in South Africa. It is this which accounts, largely, for the fear experienced by parents. Home education has a very clear definition in law, as being that which takes place by the hand of the child’s parent, at the child’s own home. No-one who is operating in this manner has anything to fear from the State. Homeschooling, by this definition, has been legal since 1996, and the government has been at pains to emphasize that it has no intention of outlawing it. Anyone who says otherwise, is uninformed or lying.
It’s not as if those of us who have chosen this unconventional trajectory for our lives don’t have enough over which to stress! As much as we love the freedom that a homeschooling lifestyle affords us, there are still many things we have to navigate with our hearts in our throats: curricula choices, school-leaving certifications… And we are happy to – but we should draw the line: let’s turn on the light and see whether this particular Bogeyman is really there!