Moving my son to a Secular School

I finally got annoyed enough with my son’s religious based discipline schooling to take a week out of work to find an alternative for his last two years at school. So I trudge through various “private” schools, “prep” schools, “good” local schools (and some not so local), and rejecting them one by one (some on sight). I’ve had meetings with headmasters, head mistresses, principals and just plain “Heads”, none of them impressed me in the least and all of them tried to convince me of the benefits of strong discipline, hard lines taken on appearances, the importance of being part of the crowd (proudly showing me clips of young men in similar uniforms shouting “HOO-HAAA!!” in unison, very impressive, the way they can control boys). I was simultaneously horrified and frustrated that I wasnt going to find anything suitable when I came across and old local newspaper and was mindlessly paging through it and noticed a small little tucked away ad for an independent school… a SECULAR independent school.

I kept the lad out of school the next morning and the S/O joined us to visit this anomaly unannounced. What a breath of fresh air… Tucked away in a suburb this little school spans four converted houses and upon our arrival two of the grades were being conducted outside in the sunshine (the Grade 8 class were wearing galoshes and were trudging around in murky water with bottles). We were ushered into the office of Mr Peter who turned out to be the principal of the school.

My lad is quiet and introverted, but this man got him chatty within 2 minutes flat and the boy was telling him exactly why he disliked his current school (stuff he didnt even bother to tell me). He was asked whether he understood what “secular” meant, and the lad nodded and responded that “I’m either an evolutionist or an atheist, I’m still figuring it out as I’m going along”. This was the first school we visited where I was addressed after my son was given the opportunity to speak for himself. I liked that.

Not a big school, 135 kids in total, registered with the correct authorities etc etc etc, got all the right subjects and an list of impressively qualified teachers. The lad will start in January. What is really interesting though, is how my sn is already reacting to the coming change. He’s dropped his “moody” demeanour and has once again integrated himself with the rest of the family, this transpired just before his exams started and we received his mark sheet tday - his marks increased on average 20% from last term. He is excited and looking forward to the change and he’s not an excitable child.

so they are out there, the secular schools, but we will have to search for them…

The few rational, reasonable people on the planet always have problems finding good schools. The problem is that the vast majority of children nowadays are not properly socialized, and if you don’t have absolutely draconian discipline at a school, you very soon go from bad discipline to bad marks to delinquency to school shootings. This is most unfortunate for the few kids who don’t need any of that.

Not a big school, 135 kids in total, registered with the correct authorities etc etc etc, got all the right subjects and an list of impressively qualified teachers.

Sounds like the kind of school I should try to get a job at. :slight_smile:
Not that I would complain too much about my current employment, but I do think I could do even better. My problem: I am not formally qualified in education. I also flatly refuse to become “qualified,” because the postgrad education diploma is a completely contentless pseudo-qualification, and just as some countries have a policy of not negotiating with terrorists, so I have a personal policy of never negotiating with or compromising with postmodernists. :slight_smile:

so they are out there, the secular schools, but we will have to search for them..

Considering what the government is doing to education in this country, it is high time for concerned parents to found more such schools…

I am more concerned about what the government allows to happen at schools. I was at a government school this week where all classes were stopped for an hour (9 to 10 am) for hymn singing. Apparently this happens once a week.

Great to hear. Mind sharing the name/location of this school?

Yes, while our constitution is generally a good one, I think they made a very, very biog mistake when they did not follow the American model of strictly separating church and state.

Anyway, don’t get me started on education in this country. It is such a disaster zone I would go on about it for pages and pages. :slight_smile:

I would love to have my daughter start school at a secular school, she is 4 years old now, so I still have time to search. But I would have to move to another town, as all the public schools and even the private schools are quite focused on religion here. Some of the people here are so far gone that they even refuse to believe in dinosaurs, the other day I took my child’s 6-year old cousin to the library with us, and when she found a book about dinosaurs she had no idea what they were!

I feel really frustrated here, the schools only advocate religion and ignore science as much as possible. When I was in high school we didn’t even do experiments like my friends in the other schools, the science teacher simply read the handbook to us and did the calculations on the board.

Hopefully in the future I will find a school where fairy-tales aren’t taught as facts, because I fear that my child might start believing their nonsense if she hears it every day.

Maybe these small, rational schools can get away with relaxed discipline because they attract a class of parent that will enroll well behaved and socially adroit children.

I’m glad, Faerie, that your admirable dedication was eventually rewarded with this little gem of a school.


The school you describe sounds great, Faerie. I’m glad your effort appears to have borne fruit.

It’s obviously not always practical to find a secular school for your kiddie to attend. As you mentioned, it may mean relocation, which most parents will find impossible. But even if our children - out of necessity - do find themselves in schools that have a less than ideal view on nature, we must not underestimate our own influence. Kids are resilient. I say this after reflecting on my own life: I was subjected to lots of woo at school. But at home, only a very watered down version of religion percolated down from my folks - bless them ;). I was to attend Sunday school and pray before meals, and that was that. I don’t remember my family going to church except for special occasions, or, weirdly, out of spite ::). I am convinced, as far as one can be sure about these things, that my scales tipped in favour of the natural outlook on life at least partly because of my parents’ rather passionless take on religion. How much more would the effect not have been if they were actively questioning religion, the way that we are.

In addition, a little bit of religious instruction will go a long way in convincing a thinking child that it is complete rubbish. Our job is to get them thinking.


I hate it when they do that - the kids should read the textbook by themselves. That is what it is for, and that is what will be expected of them at university level.

My own anecdote: the son of a friend of mine is 17 this year. He is in general very mature and responsible for his age, and quite a level-headed young man. In fact, I know his family well and he is like a son to me.

But now I noticed a recent post of his on Facebook: he went on about what a magnificent sermon one of the teachers there was giving them, and how, just as the teacher was talking about the power of God, a huge gust of wind suddenly blew through the school. And this, as you may imagine, served to greatly strengthen his faith.

He is at one of those former Model C schools, and one of the foremost and most respected ones in this area. And in many ways it IS an excellent school and surely on a par with some of the best in the world.

But I have to wonder to which extent religion is rammed down the throats of the kids there. Must be a pretty lonely place for the few secular kids. Not that I really mind the religion as such - some of my personal heroes like Bishop Tutu and Gandhi are/were after all devoutly religious and this did not prevent them from on the whole being quite rational and decent people.

But in South Africa, at least among Afrikaners, religion has acquired a strong taste of fundamentalism over the past decade or two. Perhaps it is an attempt to deal with the trauma of loss of political power? Whatever the reason, in South Africa lots of religious people are not merely religious. They have turned away from and indeed against all science and reason. This is something we really cannot afford in this country, which is already dangerously divided along ethnic and political lines, and in desperate need of rational policy making.

Yes, that is exactly it. At least some of them also quite simply choose their pupils, and do not allow the riffraff into their schools in the first place. Perhaps elitist, but so be it: you create an elite school by choosing elite pupils.

It is in this respect that I am frustrated with the school where I work, because the principal firmly believes that we can save kids from bad backgrounds, and allows anyone and everyone to come dump their problem kids on us. At the same time, she doesn’t allow any real discipline. But such discipline is the ONLY frickin’ thing that will stand any chance of saving these kids from their parents and from themselves.

At the moment, classes are still small and relatively easy to manage, but I foresee ever increasing difficulties in future.

Yay Faerie! One day when I have little tykes knocking about you’re going to have to do some divulging.

It’s one of the things that worries me the most about merely contemplating kids: How the hell I would give them a proper education.

I would actually be less worried about religious indoctrination and more about proper curriculum. However I have a feeling the lack of the former really helps along the latter.

From what I have seen of the new CAPS curriculum, it isn’t too bad. Anyway, if you are involved in your kids’ lives, they can make good use of even a bad school.

Religious indoctrination happens mostly at home, I, very early on, drew the line between “real life” and “stories” for my kids. The TV news was “real life” and the movie that followed was a “story”. Same with biblical tales, fairy tales and biographies. Being able to recognise fact from fiction is the first thing you teach your kids imo, the rest is easy after that.

My youngest was required to read from the bible at assembly as part of his duties in primary school, he justified it by pointing out that it was public speaking and that its worth the practice…

What is harder to manage is bullying and peer pressure, my eldest dealt with both very well, but my younger had (has) a really hard time trying to shake off his “differentness”, he is content with his perception of himself, but dont know how to stand up for it when accosted by others.

As for this school, he’s starting in January, so I cannot comment that it is the right move or a mistake… only time wil tell. I like what I see and it feels right, so hopefully I will report back come end Jan/Feb next year that it was a good move to make…

My youngest two (26 and 33 yrs old now) both went to religious biased schools (Glenwood Boys and St Mary’s). Glenwood a Model C wasn’t too bad that way but both these kids are atheist despite the indoctrination they were saddled with. I and to a lesser extent my wife, gave them the right to choose their own beliefs but we always stressed that they should be open-minded and be able to cope with life as it is dished up, including religion. I think the values instilled at home are crucial and if the parents have a good relationship with their kids and are good models to follow (sadly not always the case) this will play a dominating role. The worst thing IMO is to leave a vacuum for the kids to come to their own conclusions often as a result of peer pressure.n Just my own ha’pennies worth!

In interesting thread!

I am still single and far from a relationship, not to even mention sending a child to school.

But I like to be prepared and wanted to find out if there are any secular schools in South Africa.
Coming from a religious family and binning religion over a year ago, I find it hard to think that I actually made it out, taking into account that I’ve been to ‘christian’ schools.
It must be that I never really believed fully or that I valued factual evidence over feelings.

I hope to have an easier task by the time I have to send children to school!

IMHO You probably did believe fully at some point. I did, until I decided to delve a bit deeper and discovered there was nothing below the surface.