While it is possible to keep your children at home once schools reopen, there are consequences – including your children being deregistered from their current school.
This is according to the South African Teachers Association (SAOU), which has published an answer to the question: Can parents decide not to send their children back to school for fear of COVID-19 infections.
According to the South African Schools Act (SASA), parents are obligated to send their children to school from the first school day of the year in which their child reaches the age of seven, until the last school day of the year in which the learner reaches the age of 15 or Grade 9 – whichever comes first.
Once children pass this age limit, they are no longer required to go to school by law – and can therefore be withdrawn.
However, it is possible for parents to remove children who are of school-going age from their current school and implement homeschooling.
Keeping your children at home
Parents who take their children out of school for the rest of 2020 will need to consider the following, said the SAOU:
- According to the SASA, a parent who does not want to comply with the school duty requirements must obtain permission from the provincial education department to do so. This is in alignment with section 4(1), which states: A Head of Department may exempt a learner entirely, partially, or conditionally from compulsory school attendance if it is in the best interests of the learner.
- If this permission is received, consideration may be given to registering the learner for homeschooling with a curriculum provider who will certify the learner for the grade at the end of the year.
- Non-registration with a curriculum provider means that the child will have no proof of the year’s learning and that no formal certificate (report) will be issued for the year.
- The parent must understand that any public school will have the right to determine the standard of homeschooling, whether or not a certificate has been issued.
The SAOU advised that should the parents of students who are withdrawn from school want to enroll their children at a public school in 2021, the following considerations must be kept in mind:
- The learner is a new application like any other applicant and must be dealt with in terms of the school’s admission policy. This means that if there is no space for the student, they will not be able to enroll – even if it is the same school they had previously attended.
- The school can conduct a “placement assessment” to decide if the learner has the necessary knowledge and skills to be placed in the same grade.
- The child will not necessarily be promoted to the next grade with his or her age group, unless there is a formal certification to show that the content has been mastered for 2020.
- The school may, therefore, place the child in the same grade in which he or she was enrolled in 2020.
The rights of schools
According to the SAOU, schools may not stop parents from removing their children from schools, but it is necessary that the administrative process is applied.
This includes the relevant paperwork, as well as the school discussing the situation with the parents to ensure they have enough information to make an informed decision.
If the learner leaves, the school will have no obligation to support the child at home unless the provincial education department’s registration conditions require them to.
The SAOU further clarifies that certain cases can be dealt with internally – such as learners with underlying illnesses being allowed to remain enrolled at the school and receive support while remaining at home.