S P E C I A L F E A T U R E
Home Schooling is Alive and Well in South Africa
Located on the southernmost tip of the African Continent, flanked by the Indian Ocean on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east, South Africa is a wild, but beautiful place. Over 25 million people of very diverse cultures coexist in this land with 11 official languages, including English, Afrikaans, Zulu, and Xhosa. This is a place where the Big Five (lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo, and rhinoceros) still roam freely.
Founded in the mid-1600s by the Europeans (Dutch, French, & German), South Africa has a rich Christian history. In the 1990s, Christ is still being preached and sparks of revival are appearing throughout the country.
But a new government, dedicated to bringing change and holding little regard for South Africas godly heritage, has emerged from the recent well-publicized political upheaval. Liberalization of the criminal laws has emptied the prisons and contributed to an explosion of crime. It is not uncommon to see law-abiding citizens wearing guns and living in homes with high walls or iron fences, alarms, and guard dogs. Pornography and abortion have recently been legalized, exacerbating these already existing problems. And the government is swiftly moving to secularize the public schools. As a result, more and more families are turning to home schooling.
Background: HSLDA Helps Legalize Home Schooling in South Africa
Home School Legal Defense Associations involvement with South Africas struggle for the right to home school began in 1994 when we learned that home schooling parents in Gauteng province, Andre and Bokkie Mientjie, had been sentenced to two years in prison for home schooling their children. We asked United States home schoolers to write to the South African Embassy, urging the release of the Mientjies. Miraculously, the South African government granted the couple an early release. South African home school leaders and the Mientjies family credit HSLDAs initiative as the major factor contributing to their release.
Three more times over the next three years HSLDA called on American home schoolers for letters to the South African Embassy appealing for a reversal of the anti-home school policies being drafted by Nelson Mandelas new government. South African home schoolers welcomed HSLDAs support of their struggling movement. And, by Gods grace, in November 1996, home schooling officially became legal as a part of the National Schools Act passed by Parliament. Previously forced to operate in a clandestine manner, now the home education movement could flourish in the open.
The Path to Freedom
The National Schools Act officially recognizes home schooling, but grants the nine provinces in South Africa the authority to draft and implement home school regulations. Such regulations could either maximize freedoms of home schoolers, or inhibit them. Already, several provinces have drafted interim regulations which call for parents to be licensed and registered by the Department of Education.
In the months and years to come, home schoolers in South Africa will be facing many of the same legislative and legal struggles that we in the United States have already gone through. Recognizing this, and desiring to bring encouragement to their fledgling movement, HSLDA decided to send my wife, Tracy, and I to South Africa.
A Growing Home School Community
We arrived in South Africa on July 23. The home school leaders had set up conferences and media interviews in Durban, Dundee, Pietermaritizburg, Johannesburg, and Cape Town. Conference attendees were primarily Afrikaans and English, but there were a number of Indian and Zulus as well. Some were Muslim, but most were Christian. At each conference, Tracy addressed the practical aspects of home schooling and I described the struggle for home school freedoms in the United Statesrecounting the lessons we have learned, the strategies weve employed, and the miracles God has wrought.
South African home school leaders invited me to join them in meetings with several parliament officials representing the ANC (African National CongressNelson Mandelas party), the African Christian Democratic Party, and the Inkatha Freedom Party (Zulu). During these meetings, we stressed the need for clear protections of parents rights, especially the right to direct the education of their children. I explained the dangers of some of the regulations under consideration in several provinces, like teacher licensure, discretionary approval, and home visits.
At each of the meetings, the officials seemed to be convinced of the validity of home schooling and the need to avoid stifling it with unreasonable regulations. A working relationship between the home schoolers and these government officials is off to a good start. It is our prayer that they will be able to continue working together for the good of home schooling in South Africa.
I also was privileged to help leaders establish the National Home Education Defense Fund of South Africa and was asked to serve on its board. Its initial purpose will be to provide legal advice for home school members, educate the media, and negotiate with the national parliament and the nine provincial parliaments to establish reasonable regulations for home schoolers.
As Tracy and I flew home on July 31, we reflected on the tripthe people we met, the opportunities we had to share, and the things we learned.
While we were in South Africa, the home school leaders had repeatedly remarked how the timing of the trip was ideal. It was exactly what they felt was needed to unify the home school movement, bring visibility to the new defense fund, encourage novice and veteran home schoolers, and impact national policy on home schooling.
We were thankful to be given the privilege to minister to these brothers and sisters and to share with them the lessons and strategies we have learned in our struggle for home school freedom in America. Please pray with us for South Africa. Pray that more and more people will come to the saving knowledge of Jesusit is only through the love of Christ that the divisions of South Africa can be healed. And pray for protection for the home school leaders and home school families throughout the country.