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J. Michael Smith, Esq.

Michael P. Farris, Esq.

Homeschool Families’ Homes Raided in Botswana, Africa

July 7, 2010

On June 28, 2010, the Botswana Welfare Agency, accompanied by the Botswana Police, raided the homes of two homeschool families. These families, along with two others, had recently been ordered by a local judge to put their children in school.

During the raid, officials confiscated a white board and books as evidence of continued teaching. The raids were purportedly in execution of a court order issued on May 24 against the families. The court decision from Judge I.T. Molobe ordered the families to stop homeschooling and to place their children into school immediately. The court order also authorized future “inspections” of the families’ homes to ensure their cooperation.

The case began as a result of an alleged infringement of child welfare, specifically focused on the withdrawal of the children from school. Then in an investigation, the Social Welfare Office of the Mahalapye district of Botswana brought the case to a local magistrate.

However, the four families have appealed the court decision, and so the raids and confiscations, actions taken in accordance with the court order, are unlawful. The families are awaiting the hearing of their appeal, which could take up to one year.

In his decision, Judge Molobe did not find any signs of physical or emotional neglect, yet he ordered the families to cease their instruction in the home and to register their children in the school system. Homeschooling advocates in Africa were surprised by the ruling which equated homeschooling with educational neglect. It appears that the authorities believe the children were not receiving an education simply because they were not enrolled in a “government-run school.” The ruling is poorly reasoned, as it ignores positive, well-established evidence about homeschooling and instead relies upon international treaties, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), to which Botswana is a signatory.

Botswana, a country with 2 million in population but with a land mass comparing roughly to the size of Texas, is generally considered a more Western-leaning nation than most African countries. Botswana regularly exchanges military officers for training and receives a large amount of foreign aid from the United States through several multi-million dollar USAID initiatives. Only recently did Botswana pass a compulsory school attendance law.

The Pestalozzi Trust Legal Defence Fund, South Africa’s homeschool legal advocacy organization, is working closely with the families involved in this situation. Since its founding in 1998, the Pestalozzi Trust has supported countless families in South Africa and elsewhere on the continent of Africa.

HSLDA is also closely monitoring the situation and will provide support and assistance as needed. Please keep these families in your thoughts and prayers.