Education system fails undocumented learners

More than 13 000 undocumented learners wrote the 2019 matric exams.

This comes after the high court in Makhanda in December delivered a landmark judgment that no child will be barred from education because they are undocumented — even those who are viewed as illegal foreigners.

Documentation is difficult for local students to obtain when they come from communities in which government services, such as the department of home affairs, are not working properly. They are even harder to obtain for children who have had to flee problems such as war zones and natural disasters.

Of the 13 624 learners who wrote the 2019 matric exams without any form of identification, 8 900 passed. And, although 5 435 immigrant learners wrote matric, the
Mail & Guardian was unable to establish from the department of basic education how many of these immigrant learners were undocumented.

Umalusi — the Council for Quality Assurance in General and Further Education and Training — is responsible for issuing matric certificates. Umalusi spokesperson Lucky Ditaunyane told the M&G that learners without any documentation are issued with their matric certificate with the learner’s date of birth. He said the certificate is as good as a certificate with an ID number and that it can be used to apply for a job or admission to higher education.


But higher education institutions require a copy of an ID when applying for admission. Even the National Student Financial Aid Scheme requires a copy of an ID when applying for funding, which could pose a challenge for these learners and render their certificate useless if they want to study further.

In its judgment, the high court in Makhanda ruled that, where children are unable to provide identity documentation, schools must accept alternative proof of identity, such as an affidavit or sworn statement by the parent, caregiver or guardian of the learner.

It also said that schools were interdicted and restrained from removing or excluding any child — including foreign children, from school after they have been admitted just because they do not have an ID number — permit or passport, or have not produced any identification documents.

But department of basic education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told the M&G this week that, even after the judgment, schools were turning learners without documentation away because they do not know how to admit learners who are not documented.

He said the department has had to intervene and remind principals that there is a judgment and, on the basis of that judgment, schools cannot deny learners who are not documented a place.

But Mhlanga said the judgment does not mean that parents must relax and not go to the department of home affairs to apply for documentation for their children, as not having an ID can disadvantage their children later in life.

He said the learners who wrote and passed matric, but do not have IDs, were practically excluded from the education system. “The impact of not having an ID is that wherever it is where you go you will be asked to produce an ID, so what are these learners going to do?” asked Mhlanga.

He said it was good that a court case had been won but the bottom line is that learners without documentation will forever be disadvantaged if their parents do not present themselves to the department of home affairs and receive assistance.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Bongekile Macupe
Bongekile Macupe is an education reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: Marcia Mayaba —Driven to open doors for women

Marcia Mayaba has been in the motor industry for 24 years, donning hats that include receptionist, driver, fuel attendant, dealer principal and now chief...

The war on women in video game culture

Women and girls make up almost half of the gaming community but are hardly represented and face abuse in the industry

More top stories

In emotive missive, Zuma says he will not provide answering...

Former president Jacob Zuma on Wednesday submitted a 21-page letter to Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng out of “respect”, to let the head of the...

Gordhan writes to JSC to clarify ‘incidental’ mention of Pillay...

Public enterprises minister denies that he tried to influence the appointment of a judge and friend to the SCA in 2016

The battle for 2050 energy dominance: Nuclear industry makes its...

Nuclear sector says it should be poised to take up more than 50% of the 24GW left vacant by coal

#SayHerName: The faces of South Africa’s femicide epidemic

This is an ode to the women whose names made it into news outlets from 2018 to 2020. It’s also a tribute to the faceless, nameless women whose stories remain untold.
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…