Parents 'anxious' about sending kids back to school inquire about home-schooling

24 May 2020 - 00:00 By PREGA GOVENDER
About 600 parents flooded a Facebook group to express concerns about schools re-opening on June 1.
About 600 parents flooded a Facebook group to express concerns about schools re-opening on June 1.
Image: 123RF/paylessimages

About 600 parents who are afraid to send their children back to school this week bombarded a Facebook group with home-schooling inquiries.

This was a day after basic education minister Angie Motshekga said parents were free to home school their children if they “still feel anxious and doubtful” about sending them back to class.

A company supplying educational material to 19,000 home schoolers also received more than 1,000 inquiries from parents on Wednesday.

Motshekga said: “If you still feel anxious and doubtful, it’s understandable that you can’t send your child to school. [The South African Schools Act] allows you to home school but you have to register because the law of the country says every child under 15 has to be at school.”

The administrators of Lockdown Schooling@Home SA, which offers support and encouragement to those wanting to home school their children, said most of the 600 parents who became members of the Facebook group on Wednesday had indicated they would not send their children back to school for the rest of the year.

A home-schooling mother, Chirani Meyer, one of the administrators of the group — which has accumulated 2,107 members since it was founded at the beginning of the month — said: “Parents are scared about their kids contracting the coronavirus at school because they don’t have much confidence in the education department’s health and safety precautions.”

Cornelia Marais, a spokesperson for the Pestalozzi Trust, a home-school body, said 330 applications from parents for home schooling had been approved since March.

“It’s definitely Covid-19 related,” she said. 

More than half the inquiries were from parents who did not want to send their children back to school for the rest of the year.

Louise Schoonwinkel, MD of home-schooling company Impaq, said their phone lines “started burning” on Wednesday from parents who wanted to continue with the Caps (curriculum assessment policy statements) curriculum at home. 

Professor Labby Ramrathan of the school of education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal said Motshekga’s comment that pupils could repeat their grade “was tantamount to a threat to parents”.

“It’s like, ‘We put a whole plan for you to reintegrate in school this year and if you don’t take that plan, then your child will be considered a dropout.’”

The national and provincial education departments, as well as teachers unions, have been “reorganising and trimming ” the curriculum. Between 37% and 40% of the grade 1 and 2 curriculum and between 33% and 36% of the grade 8 curriculum will be “trimmed”, according to a document seen by the Sunday Times.

Professor Ursula Hoadley of the school of education at the University of Cape Town said that the early grades should go back to school quickly.

“Prioritise mathematics and languages and suspend most or all other subjects in grades 1 to 4 for the remainder of the year,” she said. 

Asked if schools would help parents with home schooling, basic education department spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said: “We are recommending that the organisations that work in the space will assist parents with any information they might need.


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