While thousands of pupils revelled in the delight of going back to school, five children from a Shongweni Dam family continued with life as normal.
This is because their parents believe the education system has been diluted and does not advocate the word of God. Three of the children are of a school-going age.
Speaking to The Mercury on Thursday, the mother of the children, Motherland Zulu, 34, said they took the decision because of their religious beliefs.
“The religion we practise doesn’t advocate for children to go to school. Schools nowadays don’t even teach kids about the word of God. There are no Bible studies. We don’t like how the government nurtures our children – it’s against God’s teachings,” she said.
One of the children, Thulile, 8, has not set foot in a classroom. Two of her older siblings, Thobeka, 16, and Thembeka, 10, stopped going to school in 2009 in grades 5 and 1, respectively. They both went to Shongweni Dam Primary School. The other two, Salam, 3, and Thando, 1, are too young for school.
“Our religion warns against worldly and material things… We read the Bible. We are not Rastafarian. We are Nazareth. We abide by the 10 Commandments,” she said.
Zulu said that while her husband, Rasjuda Zulu, matriculated, she only attended school up to Grade 5, and that they “only went to school because we were obeying our parents’ instructions”.
“In not taking our kids to school, it doesn’t necessarily mean we don’t love them – we do,” she said.
She said that she taught them English, Zulu and maths herself at home.
Asked how the couple earned a living, she said: “We don’t get any government grant. I knit hats and scarves and my husband repairs shoes. I don’t think they’ll ever go to school,” she said. “They might decide at a later stage in their lives, but for now, they’ll have to respect us as their parents.”
Ncumisa Fandes, a spokeswoman for the Provincial Department of Social Development, said that the department would send social workers to assess whether the children’s rights to education were being infringed.
Provincial education spokesman Bhekisisa Mncube said: “The constitution states that every child has a right to an education. However, what it doesn’t say is whether the children get state, private or home schooling. People also have a right to practise religion. As to which overrides which, only the constitutional court can determine that.”