The South African Department of Education (DoE) released findings of an alarming number of unregistered schools across all provinces. The law states that all schools (public and independent) must be registered with the Department of Basic Education at national and provincial level.
Think Digital Academy is registered with SACAI, the South African Comprehensive Assessment Institute, and follows the requirements for students to obtain their National Senior Certificate. If a learner is in the FET phase (Grade 10-12) the school should be accredited with one of the three governing bodies for primary and secondary education in South Africa: namely:
- Department of Education – The DoE governs all public schools
- IEB – The Independent Examinations Board (IEB) governs most private schools and any schools offering the IEB curriculum
- SACAI – SACAI governs online schools / distance providers
The matric certificates of all three bodies are issued by Umalusi which gives all students the same opportunity to obtain their NSC certificates. Think Digital Academy registers all FET students (Grade 10, 11 and 12) with SACAI.
Registration grants the applicant school legal authority to offer basic education and enables it to operate within the law. With nearly 26 000 illegitimate educational institutions identified, the government department prioritised on curbing the practice. The problem however, persists, though much has been done to create public awareness of the problem. Hefty fines have been implemented, legislation amended, schools have been closed, and perpetrators have been jailed for creating these bogus schools, which essentially defraud and forge the certificates/qualifications of illegally trained students.
There are two types of schools in South Africa: namely public and independent. While the state controls public schools, the set-up of independent schools, which have their own operations, mission and ethos and essentially, their own curriculum and control, is a complicated process. There are various departments and organisations, like ISASA – the Independent Schools Association of South Africa, which provide schools with vital information and aid to legally start up their establishments. When considering applications, the Department of Education will look at the quality, financial stability, qualifications, legal operations and health and safety of the school. It is also assessed for resources, capacity and expertise. If everything is found to be satisfactory, the school will be issued with a letter and certificate of registration which states the registration number, the phases/grades for which it is registered and the address at which the school is situated. This must be visibly displayed on the school’s premises.
The issue is not all that black and white however. There are indeed fly-by-night schools which advertise courses and qualifications which do not exist, receive payment and cannot deliver the education. There are also however, community-run schools created by parents and families of children living in the rural or poverty laden areas with no other alternative; where there are no other schools, or the formal schools are inadequate or overcrowded. The Department shuns such schools as oftentimes the teachers are not qualified to educate and do more harm than good. A contentious issue indeed, as the Department of Education in 2014 received 20% (R254 billion); the highest share of government’s consolidated expenditure, in the hope of dealing with these kinds of urgent educational needs.
The Department of Education has been very vocal in what you can do to prevent your child from attending an illegitimate school:
- Obtain the school’s registration number and call your provincial Department to check if it is legit. You can also check with the Umalusi Council, which sets and monitors standards for general and further education or contact the South African Qualifications Authority which deals with accreditation and quality assurance. They are easily found on the web.
- If your child is attending a brick-and-mortar school, check the school’s premises to your satisfaction. Have all your concerns regarding facilities, health and safety been met?
- Study and understand the school’s enrolment forms carefully before signing them – make sure your child is registered for the right grade and the right courses in the right language, etc.
Please contact your Provincial Education Department (PED) to register your child for home-schooling for one of the following compulsory phases:
- Foundation Phase (Grade 1 to 3)
- Intermediate Phase (Grade 4 to 6)
- Senior Phase (Grade 7 to 9)
To date, Think Digital Academy parents have never had an issue with the DoE as they are able to provide sufficient “evidence” that schooling is taking place daily. Parents are encouraged to print out the weekly reports that are emailed every Monday, keep a record of all the activities completed in student workbooks and lastly, print out a copy of all student assessments which are emailed to the parents upon completion. Should any parents of a Gr R-9 online learner with TDA ever be paid a visit by a representative from the DoE, the documents collected should suffice in terms of producing evidence of work being done at home.
Any parents who are seeking more guidance with registering their children with the DoE can contact the Pestalozzi Trust, a body of lawyers that represent home-schooling parents.