On 15 November 2013, during a meeting of Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) with homeschooling parents, it was confirmed again that government views home education as a right, but parents should first receive permission before they can exercise this right.
An organisation that calls itself “Tuisonderrig” arranged this meeting. Like the previous meeting by this organisation, the meeting strictly focussed on the process that parents must follow to register their children for home education. No discussion on legal problems with registration was allowed. The complete report of this meeting can be read here. The views expressed during this meeting were highly problematic for homeschoolers.
Firstly, if citizens have a right, they should not have to ask permission to exercise it. If one has to ask for permission, it is a privilege and not a right. For example, when a child is born (or even before this), it has the right to life and simply starts exercising it by living without asking permission to live. If home education is a right, parents cannot be required to ask for permission.
All citizens have a right to basic education. Government generally makes the flawed assumption that children receive a basic education when attending school, and therefore parents are not required to ask for permission to send a child to school. Research however shows that many children that attend school do not receive education. On the other side, home education has a track record of success, but if parents want to choose this type of education they have to ask for permission.
The Universal Declaration of Human Right states that parents have a prior right to choose the type of education for their children. That means that the right of parents comes before the right of any other stakeholder. If however parents are not allowed to homeschool before they received permission from government, it means government has the prior right to choose the type of education.
Children have a constitutional right to parental care. When parents register their child at Department of Home Affairs, they accept responsibility to provide their children parental care. Parental care includes things like food, shelter, healthcare and education. Based on this, it is generally assumed that parents are responsible to teach their children to talk. However, if parents decide they want to continue to provide parental care and also teach their children how to read, write and use numbers, then they have to ask permission for this. There are no constitutional grounds why parental care includes talking but excludes writing.
When it comes to other aspects of parental care such as healthcare, parents can choose the type of healthcare for their children without asking for permission. They can choose traditional western medicine of alternative medicine. Only in extreme cases, when it can proved beyond reasonable doubt that the life of the child is in danger, can the courts interfere in the decisions of parents. For example when a child’s life is in danger because the parents have religious objections against blood transfusion. However, the department of education interferes in parental decisions in a way that the department of health will not dream to attempt.
Although there are no reasons to believe that the officials at the department of education have malicious intentions, parents are advised to be careful when dealing with these officials, because it could easily happen that they allow these officials to infringe on their parental rights to the detriment of their children.