Government clamps down on unregistered learners

MBOMBELA – Both departments confirmed that school principals in Ehlanzeni District’s Mgwenya and Sikhulile circuits have been given three to four months to verify learners’ documents. Those without documentation after this period will be removed from the schools.

Mr Kedibone Sekhwela, a concerned citizen, quoted the Constitution, saying “Everyone has the right to a basic education, including adult basic education”.

He feels that the campaign will negatively impact “hundreds if not thousands of learners,” especially in schools in Daantjie and Msogwaba.

According to him, there are many learners who are in the country illegally with their parents and have no legal paperwork, but attend school. Spokesman of the Department of Education, Mr Jasper Zwane, defended the campaign.

Mr Jasper Zwane.

“We are protecting two rights. First, we are protecting the children’s right to a name and identity. What are you without a name? Everyone should have a birth certificate. Second, we are protecting their right to education by not refusing them from the start, but giving them three months to get their paperwork in order,” he said.

Zwane pointed out that practically, the grace period was much longer.

“In actual fact, hospitals do not discharge new mothers without registering the baby, and if you fail to do that, you have six years to get your child a birth certificate.”

Sekhwela is concerned about the pupils who will be deregistered.

“Those pupils are going to resort to crime, and most of their former teachers and principals may be targets, because they are going to blame them for their dismissals. The Department of Home Affairs failed to mind our ports of entry and now they want to use the Department of Education to clean their mess.

As long as children are in the country, it is their constitutional right to get an education. Peace and stability are more important than justice and accountability. You don’t burn the house to roast the pig,” Sekhwela said.

Zwane responded that registering and documenting their children was an important responsibility carried by parents and guardians. He added that the schools are following protocol. If children are brought into the country illegally, or if their parents are illegal immigrants, a school will still take in the child for three months, allowing the parents to get their affairs and documentation in order.

“You can not tell me they have an excuse. The home affairs offices are open on Saturdays too. Parents have to start taking responsibility for their children and have them registered,” he said. Mr Mayihlome Tshwete, spokesman for the Department of Home Affairs, said every person in the country has to be documented.

“Any person(s) identified as illegal immigrants will face deportation. If a child’s parents are deported, the child will go with them. We cannot unwittingly create a precedent where illegal immigrants come here to school their children. It is a complex situation, with the human right to education, but we have immigration laws. If we just let children without documentation stay in school, it will become an attractive tool for foreigners to enter the country, as our schools are better than that those in neighbouring countries.”

He added that while no school has been taken to court to date, aiding and abetting illegal immigrants was a serious matter.

“It is the ethical duty of each school to report illegal immigrants and their children, should they be identified as such, so that home affairs can act accordingly,” he said.

He concluded that it was unclear how many illegal immigrants will be affected, as they are unreported and undocumented, and so cannot be counted.

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