ACDP Member of Parliament Cheryllyn Dudley today said that “The Department of Basic Education (DBE) will be wasting money if the Minister promulgates the Policy on Home Education prematurely.
“There has been a fundamental misunderstanding between DBE and home education stakeholders resulting in a situation where the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, is about to promulgate a policy that is the result of a failed consultation process.
“The DBE claims that home educators rejected a key discussion document, however, the ACDP is in possession of extensive documentation that shows that home education stakeholders were positively disposed to the principles and processes outlined in the document.”
The first consultation meeting with the home education community and other key stakeholders was held in October 2014.
Dudley said “The ACDP played a significant role in facilitating this consultation.”
In a Portfolio Committee on Basic Education in 2012 the Department of Basic Education (DBE) stated that “the Department is currently developing policy in respect of home schooling”. In a follow-up to this statement Dudley asked the Minister of Basic Education when the department projected releasing the policy for comment. The Minister responded that the draft policy would be available in April/May 2013, as the formulation of such a policy required extensive consultation.
Dudley confirmed that the Association for Homeschooling then approached her to ask the Minister who the DBE had contacted during the consultation process and the Minister disclosed that no homeschooling organisations had been consulted, but that the department was willing to consult with homeschooling organisations. Initial consultations then took place in 2014 and 2015.
“During the second consultation with stakeholders in July 2015 a discussion document was presented and a working group was set up involving all stakeholders. Home educators say they did not ‘disagree’ with the document - as DBE had reported - and in fact the document was “received positively”. It was only when DBE officials ignored the processes outlined in the document which the Department itself had drawn up that the home schooling participants withdrew from the process”, Dudley said.
In 2018, this policy was approved by Heads of Education Department Committee (HEDCOM) and the CEM. The Department is currently preparing a gazette for promulgation.
Dudley said “the Department’s statement that ‘a small grouping is opposed to the policy and has been spamming departmental officials requesting that the policy not be promulgated’ is irresponsible. The Department’s admission that they regard the serious efforts of this community to make their voice heard - as spam - is shocking. Parliament is always encouraging people to get involved with the legislative process and it is unacceptable that departments treat these very same people with such disdain when they do participate. What they refer to as a ‘small group’ is in fact made up of those most affected by this policy, those who have the most experience in this field and those actually successfully homeschooling their children.”
The Department says they consider the consultation process to have been extensive and all-encompassing and that “the Department of Basic Education is confident that all comments on the policy have been adequately ventilated”.
Dudley said “claims by DBE that the home education community withdrew from the process because they completely rejected a document, while the home education community said they received the same document in a positive spirit surely requires further investigation. Especially since the publication of a government gazette is an expensive exercise. To continue to prepare a gazette for promulgation when it is clear that the department is proceeding on the basis of a fundamental misunderstanding would constitute a significant waste of resources at a time when the Department is under significant financial pressure”.
“The ACDP calls on the Minister to investigate this misunderstanding and to take the time to bridge the gap that exists between themselves and home school educators. In fact this goes beyond just those who are actively involved in home schooling, and it is an issue the broader Christian and other religious communities feel very passionately about.”
“The ACDP also calls on the Basic Education Portfolio Committee to address this issue with the department and seriously interrogate the department’s handling of such an obviously important section of society during this review process.”
“This would be an opportunity for parliament to show their commitment to protecting the public’s right to be heard and to be seen and to be taken seriously in the processes of the department and parliament”, Dudley said.
ISSUED BY: CHERYLLYN DUDLEY MP
16 August 2018