Two parents have moved to court seeking to have home schooling recognised as a legitimate alternative system of education while challenging the criminalisation of the non-enrolment of a child in either a public or a private school in Kenya.
Silus Shikwekwe Were and Onesmus Mboya Orinda argue in the petition that the school enrolment requirement limits the scope of education and is contrary to the child’s right to freedom of conscience, opinion, belief and free will.
Sections of the Basic Education Act, which provide that that a child should be registered either in a private or a public school, limit the rights of a parent to determine the forum and manner in which the child will receive education.
“The non-recognition of home schooling as a form of education which guarantees a child’s right to education contravenes the rights of children who may opt for this system of education as well as the right of the parent to determine a cause that would take care of the child’s interest,” the petition says.
Mr Were and his children were arrested on February 18 this year and later charged before a Butali court in Kakamega.
In the case pending before Butali court, Mr Were was accused of abdicating his duty to enrol the children at school, yet the minors need care and protection.
The arrest, questioning and the incarceration of the children was illegal and in violation of the children’s right as such measures could only be effected as a last resort, Mr Were argues.
He and his co-petitioner hold that a child, formally enrolled and sitting in class, may not necessarily be receiving education in a manner that best promotes his or her well-being and full development.
“Consequently, the classroom is transformed into a detention facility which subjects a child to mental torture thereby limiting and or inhibiting the full development of the child,” the petition says.
There is no conclusive empirical evidence or guarantee that the enrolment of a child in school inculcates quality education, morals, values and principles in the child as envisaged in the Constitution, the petitioners argue.
“Conversely, there is no proof that provision of home education in any way compromises or diminishes a child’s right to education,” Mr Were argues in a sworn affidavit.
Home schooling is broadly regarded as a system where parents teach their children an academic curriculum at home instead of sending them to a public or private school.
Home schooling, they say, has been adopted and legalised throughout Europe and North America and countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South Africa and the US.
The petitioners say that they are some of the many parents in Kenya who have chosen to provide home education to their children.