Schools threaten children of foreign nationals with expulsion

According to the Western Cape Education Department, children of illegal immigrants may stay in school while Home Affairs determines the status of the family concerned.

Several foreign nationals staying in Kraaifontein are not sure whether their children will continue learning after they received warnings from schools that they should get refugee permits even when born in South Africa.

Kraaifontein, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Several foreign nationals staying in Kraaifontein are not sure whether their children will continue learning after they received warnings from schools that they should get refugee permits for their children even when they were born in South Africa.

Some of the parents are holders of expired asylum papers. They say the Department of Home Affairs makes it very difficult to extend the documents or to grant them refugee status.

But the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) says children of illegal immigrants may stay in school while Home Affairs determines the status of the family concerned.

It further requests the parents concerned to provide evidence showing that they have applied to Home Affairs to legalise their stay in the country in terms of the Immigration Act.

“My child was born here in South Africa and has an unabridged birth certificate but to my surprise the school every-time warn my child to get a permit. The child every morning looks stressed by this because she always asks me when I will apply for her permit,” says Isabelle Kasongo* from Democratic Republic of Congo.

Her daughter was born in 2010.

Kasongo is requesting that the school rather inform the parents concerned. “Such messages disturb the child from concentrating in learning,” she says.

The push against African immigrants is not coming from the schools, however. The WCED issued letters to immigrant parents notifying them that permits are required for their children to continue learning at school. Elitsha is in possession of the letter.

Bettina Nkurikiye* a mother of two says, “I am afraid anytime my children may be stopped from learning. During the second term, I received a letter from Western Cape Department of Education informing us that our children will not go for Matric level if they have no permits though my children are in Grades R and 2.” She adds that the school has asked her to return the letter.

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Nkurikiye, 33 from Burundi pleads with the Education Department not to send away the children from school. “I cannot go back to Burundi. Me and my husband fled war and we would like to settle in South Africa,” she says.

Another parent of children enrolled at the same primary school as Kasongo, Eve Mputu* from DRC says the school requested permits for the children or they would not be allowed to attend lessons.

“I really do not know what to do now. Where should we go now. There is war in DRC, I cannot go back,” says Mputu.

Mputu’s child was born in 2010 and is in Grade 1.

In an emailed response, Equal Education says, “Section 29 of the Constitution of South Africa guarantees everyone the right to basic education. This right therefore extends to all learners, including undocumented foreign or immigrant children – they too are entitled to receive basic education.”

Meanwhile Aline Bukuru, director of Women and Children Concern (WCC) organisation says by denying these children education the respective schools will be infringing the children’s basic rights: “The schools should not deny these children their right to education. They should treat the children born from foreign nationals according to the provisions of the Constitution.”

WCC is a non-profit organisation that educates women and children about their rights in South Africa. It also seeks to empower vulnerable foreign nationals with different skills so that they can earn a living on their own.

* Not their real names to protect the identities of their children. The names of the schools involved are also not published so that the children concerned may not be victimised further.

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About Bernard Chiguvare 19 Articles
Originally from Zimbabwe and since 2014 I been contributing to different publications in South Africa. My area of focus as a reporter is on the rights of vulnerable communities and foreign nationals in any country.