Education exemption and homeschooling

In May 2020 Deputy Basic Education Minister Makgabo Mhaule confirmed that the Department does not want to expose pupils with underlying health conditions to any danger, and parents must let their schools know about their child’s conditions. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga confirmed that no parent will be forced to send their child back to school.

The Department has to have realised that even healthy children could pose a risk to parents (and grandparents) with comorbidities, and should have considered this as a valid reason for exempting school attendance.

The Law

Article 26 (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”

This was affirmed in the White Paper on Education and Training (Notice 196 of 1995, Department of Education) – “Parents or guardians have the primary responsibility for the education of their children. Parents have an inalienable right to choose the form of education which is best for their children, particularly in the early years of schooling, whether provided by the state or not, subject to reasonable safeguards which may be required by law.”

According to section 4(1) of the South African Schools Act, “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.”

The South African Teachers Association (SAOU) reiterates that “schools may not stop parents from removing their children from schools. But, non-registration with a curriculum provider means that the child will have no proof of the year’s learning and that no formal certificate will be issued for the year. 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.”

If you are unwilling to accept the very real risk of coronavirus contagion to your child or members of your family as a consequence of sending your child back to school, SAPRA advises applying for partial or conditional exemption from attendance. Parents seeking to homeschool their child must register for home schooling.

Application for Exemption and Homeschooling

For more information on the application process, visit the Department of Basic Education’s website: