South Africa allows undocumented migrant children to register at government schools

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. Photo : news24.com

Johannesburg, South Africa (ADV) – The South African government this week directed public schools to provisionally enroll undocumented migrant children pending them producing the required documents within the legally prescribed three months, African Daily Voice has learnt.

The government directive, revealed in an April 4, 2019 letter written by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga in response to complaints raised by migrants’ rights organisation, the African Diaspora Forum in February, spells new dawn for millions of migrant children, some of who have for decades been relegated to poor and sometimes unregistered private schools.

There were an estimated 1.5 million undocumented migrants living in South Africa at the end of 2016, according to a community survey by Statistics South Africa. Around 175,000 of those counted were aged 19 or under. Many more children are born in South Africa to parents without papers. Often these births are not registered because of legislative restrictions on migrant children receiving birth certificates.

Referring to the Admission Policy, Motshekga stated in her letter that government had put in place interim measures to ensure migrant children were registered at public learning institutions pending the finalisation of the report by a Ministerial Task Team put together by cabinet to look into the emotive issue, the outcome of a court case in the Grahamstown High Court and the finalisation of the revised Admission Policy.

Motshekga quoted Paragraph 15 of the Admission Policy, which empowers schools to provisionally admit a leaner who is unable to submit a birth certificate until a copy of the certificate is obtained from the nearest offices of the Department of Home Affairs. The parent is then required to ensure the admission of the learner is finalised within three months.

“Paragraph 15 of the Admission Policy does not in any way prohibit the admission of any learner to public schools on the basis of being unable to produce proper documents,” stated the education minister.

“If a parent is unable to produce the required documentation to the schools within the period prescribed in the Admission Policy, the position of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in this instance has always been that no learner should be removed from such a public school but rather should be assisted to obtain all required documents.”

In an apparent bid to synchronize the department’s position, Motshekga revealed provincial education authorities had been given a directive.

“Based on the above, the DBE has put in place an interim measure to ensure that no learner without proper documentation is refused admission to a public school,” revealed the minister.

“The DBE has written a circular to all provinces directing that all learners, irrespective of their citizenship status, should not be denied admission to any public school.”

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