Schools expel children with no IDs
Source: Mail & Guardian, 20/09/2019
These are examples that form part of an application brought by the
Centre for Child Law, Phakamisa High School and 37 children â€`
represented by the Legal Resources Centre â€` against the department
of basic education (DBE), the Eastern Cape department of education
and the department of home affairs.
The application comes after a 2016 decision by the provincial
department of education to issue a circular to schools that said
that funding for the purchases of learner support materials, such
as textbooks and desks, and the allocation of teachers and funding
for the school nutrition programme, would be based on the number
of learners who have either a valid identity document, passport
number, or asylum permit number.
This forced some schools to expel undocumented learners, or not to
The papers were filed at the Makhanda high court in 2017 and the
case was heard this week.
The Centre for Child Law wants the decision communicated by the
circular to be reviewed and set aside. It argues that it violates
the chilrenâ€™s rights to a basic education, to have their best
interests considered paramount and to have their dignity
In the founding affidavit, the deputy director of the centre,
Karabo Ozah, states that, since April 2016, funding for school
nutrition has only been allocated for learners with the relevant
It goes on to say that, in November 2016, schools were also
allocated teachers based on the number of learners with the
required documentation â€` and not the actual number of learners at
Ozah argues that, although most people are registered with the
department of home affairs when they are born, in some cases
parents or guardians fail to register the birth of a child for
multiple reasons out of their control.
â€śIt is a problem which disproportionately affects poor black
learners and learners in rural communities where they are often
left with family members while their parents take up employment in
bigger towns or cities. These learners are also affected by the
high prevalence of HIV/Aids in rural communities and are often
left orphaned at a young age,â€ť reads the affidavit.
In the opposing affidavit, the deputy director general of
planning, information and assessment in the department of basic
education, Shunmugam Govindasamy Padayachee, argues that the
relief sought by the applicants is â€świde-ranging and they will
effectively render the DBE ineffective in terms of control,
funding, administration and discharging its constitutional
obligation to render basic educationâ€ť.
Padayachee says this is because the decision about the documents
was taken for purposes of controlling and improving administration
in the department.
He further argued that, should the court agree to what the
application seeks to achieve, it would hamper and prejudice the
administrative affairs of the department.
According to the opposing affidavit, the decision by the
provincial department was approved and adopted by the council of
education ministers (CEM) â€` the council is formed by the nine MECs
of education and the minister of basic education.
The main rationale behind the decision was to ensure compliance
with the admissions policy, which stipulates that new learners
must supply birth certificates upon registration. The affidavit
also said the decision would ensure that all learners in the
sector are accounted for, which would stop any waste of state
In the affidavit, Padayachee says: â€śThe decision by the CEM was
taken after the DBE sector had discovered a number of loopholes in
the provincial education departments and schoolsâ€™ learner numbers
He says an example of this is learners who are registered but
cannot be accounted for â€` the so-called â€śghostâ€ť learners.
Padayachee also states that, in the period between April and
November after the decision was made, 85 000 ghost learners,
learners with duplicated IDs and learners who were unaccounted for
were found in the province. This led to savings of about R1.4-
billion in the Eastern Cape alone.
In the affidavit, he also denies that the provincial department
had failed to provide teachers, school nutrition, desks, chairs,
textbooks, stationery and funding to learners without valid ID
numbers, passports or permits.
Before children can attend school, they need their documents.
Last week, the South African Human Rights Commission issued a
position paper on access to basic education for undocumented
learners in the country.
In the paper, the commission makes several recommendations. These
include that the basic education department must issue a directive
that no learner may be denied admission to school because they
have no documentation â€` or threatened with removal from school
because they have no documentation.
The commission also says that circulars directing schools not to
admit undocumented learners must be recalled.
It expects the department of basic education to provide it with a
comprehensive report within three months with the measures it is
going to implement in relation to its recommendations.