An international organization that has fought pitched battles over parents’ rights to educate their own children in Germany, Sweden and the United States, as well as lesser fights in a number of other countries, is taking on officialdom in Botswana after police there grilled homeschoolers, confiscated their teaching materials and ordered them to appear in court.
The Home School Legal Defense Association, based in the United States, also is asking its members to become part of the fight by contacting not only the Botswana embassy but also the office of the African nation’s president to express alarm over the developments. Contact information is being posted on the organization’s website.
The HSLDA reported four families in Mahalapye, Botswana, are facing an uncertain future that may be determined as early as a Sept. 9 court hearing they are being required to attend.
“The only reason the four families are facing this situation is because a Botswana judge is using the [United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the CRC] to impose his subjective view regarding education and to substitute his opinion as to what is in the ‘best interests’ of these children over the views of the parents,” the organization explained in a report on its website.
HSDLA previously has warned that the U.N. effort, which has not been adopted by the U.S. but has been embraced by most other nations, “opens the door for judges to make sweeping determinations about how children are educated.”
WND reported earlier this week when officials in the United Kingdom began removing Internet filters from school computers so that children could reach sexually explicit websites following its adoption of the CRC. The treaty mandates children have the right to reproductive health information and services, including abortions, without parental knowledge or consent.
HSLDA reports the families in Botswana are part of a Seventh Day Adventist church and homeschool because of their religious and other beliefs. It was on May 24 when Judge I.T. Molobe, a magistrate, ordered the families to enroll their children in public schools and stop home education.
Molobe cited Botswana’s U.N. “treaty obligations” as a reason to find that the parents violated the “welfare of these children, particularly enjoyment of their right to education as espoused in various local legislation and treaties to which the country ascribes,” the report said.
Even though lawyers working with the families explain there does not appear to be any explicit legal requirement in Botswana demanding parents send their children to any school, the families were ordered to forfeit their teaching materials to the state. The materials were confiscated during a police raid in July.
Social workers cited the U.N. treaty as the reason they started investigating the families. Principal Magistrate Jennifer Chhikate has ordered the parents to court on Sept. 9 to prove they are complying, with jail time and fines possible for failure.
The HSLDA estimated there are only a few hundred children being homeschooled in Botswana, a nation of some 2 million people north of South Africa.
“There is no way I will enroll my children in school under any circumstances,” one of the parents, identified as the husband of Lolo Modimoothata, said to HSLDA Director of International Relations Michael Donnelly. “I must obey God. The schools here are corrupt and teach my children things that go against our faith and our values. I cannot allow them to go to these schools.”
An earlier investigation by social services workers found the children did not want to attend public schools and their home education was superior. The judge concluded they were cared for, but that could not overcome the demands of the U.N.
The HSLDA warned that every homeschooling family should worry that judges more and more are citing the U.N. demands to intervene in what families decide is best for their own children.
Leendert Van Oostrum, an executive with The Pestalozzi Trust, said his organization has hired an attorney for the families and is working on an appeal.
“These are very determined and brave families,” Van Oostrum said. “They believe it is their God-ordained duty and right to educate their children at home. We are proud to be able to support them in their cause. We find the behavior of the Botswana police and courts outrageous and hope that more responsible leadership will be applied to remedy this situation without undue trauma to these children.”
He explained that because of limited resources, one family already sold a vehicle to pay the legal fees.
Now HSLDA has written a letter to the ambassador for Botswana, asking him to help the families.
Donnelly told the ambassador that Germany and Sweden both have been given negative international attention when they have attempted similar crackdowns on parental rights.
“There appears to be a heavy bias in some countries against the rights of parents to decide what is best for their children,” Donnelly explained. “We have seen egregious cases of authoritarian treatment of homeschooling families in Germany and Sweden in Europe and now with Botswana in Africa. We call on policy makers in Botswana to take swift action to protect the rights of parents to determine the best form of education for their children, including homeschooling.”
The letter points out that one of the parents was “threatened that his application to become a naturalized citizen of Botswana will be opposed if he does not ‘cooperate’ with the secret police.”
It cites the U.S. judge who wrote last January while approving asylum for a homeschooling family whose members had been persecuted in Germany, “No country has a right to deny these basic human rights.”
The association is asking constituents to contact either the Botswana Embassy or the nation’s president at:
His Excellency Mr. Lapologang Caesar Lekoa
The Ambassador of the Republic of Botswana
1531-1533 New Hampshire Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
His Excellency the President, Lieutenant General Seretse Khama Ian Khama
Private Bag 001, Gaborone
Contact Person: Ms. Seadimano Oefile
Phone: +267 395 0800
Fax: +267 395 0858
Just a few weeks earlier, the HSLDA said a similar battle was developing in Sweden, where authorities have begun fining parents who homeschool their own children. An especially egregious case has involved the “state-napping” of a child, the organization has documented.
The United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child creates specific civil, economic, social, cultural and even economic rights for every child and states that “the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.” While the treaty states that parents or legal guardians “have primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child,” experts say the government ultimately would decide if parents’ decisions are good, and, therefore, to be followed.
Among the provisions of the convention is one stating that children have the right to reproductive health information and services, including abortions, without parental knowledge or consent.
The U.S. never has ratified the treaty, and there is an active campaign by Parental Rights.org to prevent that from happening.
Thirty-one U.S. senators already have signed on to a plan to oppose the convention, and only three more are needed to prevent its adoption, since treaties demand support from two-thirds of the Senate.
Among other provisions of the treaty, according to the Parental Rights website:
- Parents no longer would be able to administer reasonable spankings to their children.
- A murderer aged 17 years, 11 months and 29 days at the time of his crime no longer could be sentenced to life in prison.
- Children would have the ability to choose their own religion while parents would only have the authority to give their children advice about religion.
- The best interest of the child principle would give the government the ability to override every decision made by every parent if a government worker disagreed with the parent’s decision.
- A child’s “right to be heard” would allow him (or her) to seek governmental review of every parental decision with which the child disagreed.
- According to existing interpretation, it would be illegal for a nation to spend more on national defense than it does on children’s welfare.
- Children would acquire a legally enforceable right to leisure.
- Teaching children about Christianity in schools has been held to be out of compliance with the CRC.
During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, then-Sen. Barack Obama promised he would pursue the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“It’s embarrassing to find ourselves in the company of Somalia, a lawless land,” Obama said at the time. “I will review this and other treaties to ensure the United States resumes its global leadership in human rights.”
Among other opponents, several states have adopted resolutions criticizing the treaty, including Louisiana, where lawmakers voted unanimously against it.
ParentalRights.org also advocates for an addition to the U.S. Constitution.
The amendment would state: “The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental right.”
It would add that, “Neither the United States nor any state shall infringe upon this right without demonstrating that its governmental interest as applied to the person is of the highest order and not otherwise served.”
Lastly, it specifies, “No treaty may be adopted nor shall any source of international law be employed to supersede, modify, interpret, or apply to the rights guaranteed by this article.”
Along with its support in the Senate, it has more than 140 sponsors in the House. Under the Constitution’s amendment process, a plan approved by Congress would need to be ratified by three-fourths of the states.
Besides Louisiana, lawmakers in South Dakota, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Hawaii, Michigan, California, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, North Carolina, New York and Utah have reviewed the issue.