Parents pull kids out of schools to be taught at home
Violence, overcrowded classrooms and poorly trained teachers at state schools are driving thousands of desperate parents to teach their children at home.
Curriculum providers have over the years seen a "noticeable increase" in the number of parents choosing home schooling .
In 1997, 2000 children were being home-schooled, a year after such schooling was legalised. By 2001, the number had leapt to 10,000.
Stats SA's Census 2011 revealed that the number had grown to 57,000.
The Department of Basic Education said in its 2013-2014 annual report that it estimated that there were more than 12million pupils in the state system, of whom roughly 4% attended private schools.
Elijah Mhlanga, the department's spokesman, yesterday declined to comment on it s stance on home schooling.
Home schooling options open to parents - who must register their children with the department as being educated at home - are varied. They include teaching children at home themselves, placing them in a tutorial centre or having a private home tutor.
University of Pretoria education psychologist Kobus Maree said illiterate parents, and people from poor backgrounds, had no choice but to settle for what was being offered.
"Teaching and learning are not happening at the pace that they should in our schools. We need to find the real problems and causes and address them," Maree said.
He said not enough was being done to deal with issues such as overcrowded classrooms and school violence, which forced parents to remove their children from mainstream schooling.
Amy Nortje, a spokesman for Clonard Distance Education, which provides a home schooling curriculum, said most parents choosing alternative education felt that their children were "falling through the gaps" at mainstream schools.
"Parents mostly want the best education for their children and feel they can't get it from normal schools because teachers sometimes speed through the curriculum, resulting in their children being left behind.
"Large class sizes are another factor, as is the safety of children exposed to bullying and violence in schools. Private schools are sometimes not an option because they are too expensive."
Clonard Distance Education has 950 registered grade R to 9 pupils. Another curriculum provider, Brainline Learning World, has more than 2000 grades R to 12 pupils.
After questioning her son about his unhappiness at school, Johannesburg mother Rashida Khan found that teachers at the private school he attended were bullying him.
"They shouted at him and sometimes even hit him when he fell behind with his work. They told me they did not have time to see to him individually," she said.
She introduced her 13-year-old to home schooling by a private tutor.
"His marks have improved drastically and he is much happier in this environment. I thought he would miss his friends but he has made other friends in the home-schooling setting," Khan said.
Being able to have her children taught in line with her family values motivated Western Cape mother Shirley Erwee to home-school her six children from Grade 1.
She spends thousands on US curriculums for her children.
"The [South African] government has [its] own ideology of what children are taught and I feel that with home schooling I can mix and match and allow my children to learn what they want to learn.
"Life orientation in mainstream schools teaches sex education. It is also taught in home schooling but when they are ready and age-appropriate," said Erwee, whose daughter matriculated last year.
South Africa has nearly 40 curriculum providers, with hundreds of centres providing home schooling.
Moore House Academy and St George's Elementary School, in Johannesburg, are two such centres.
Amber Moore, owner of Moore House Academy, said home schooling and learning centres were a growing trend that should not be ignored by the Department of Basic Education.
"Home school offers a student-based environment. Because we can give them more attention, the children tend to understand their work better," Moore said.
At St George's Elementary, the teachers' main goal is to give the school's children who need remedial education the skills needed to function in a mainstream environment.
Chelene Farndell, of St George's, said the ability to manipulate the curriculum to suit the children's needs enabled private tutors to teach according to the pupil's strengths and weaknesses.
University of the Free State rector Jonathan Jansen, however, warned parents to be aware of their motives for home-schooling their children.
"Although I sympathise with parents sceptical of public education, teaching is not something parents can do unless they are highly trained," said Jansen.