Educational rights of other children in SA investigated
THE rights of undocumented children to education in South Africa is under focus with the Legal Resource Centre (LRC) launching a case in the Grahamstown High Court to protect their rights.
The LRC is taking up the court battle on behalf of the governing body of Phakamisa High School in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.
This follows the decision by the Eastern Cape department of education to stop funding pupils without identity documents, passports or permit numbers.
“Many schools have already been affected by this announcement and do not have sufficient teachers or budgets for learning and teaching support materials and the national school nutrition programme,” LRC spokesperson, Claire Martens, said.
“By withdrawing funding, the department is violating the pupils’ constitutional rights to basic education (section 29) particularly when it is read in conjunction with the pupils’ rights to dignity (section 10) and the right to equality and nondiscrimination (section 9).
“Phakamisa High School is one of the affected schools in the area and they don’t receive funding for those pupils.
“When Phakamisa High School did its post allocations for the 2017 school year they registered 99 pupils who were undocumented.
“However, that has been rectified and brought down to 37,” Cecil van Schalkwyk of the local LRC, said.
Van Schalkwyk also said the rectified numbers were sent to the department of education’s district office. However, their numbers still reflect 77 undocumented children.
The LRC says the failure to fund these pupils is not in the best interests of the children as it violates their constitutional rights to basic nutrition (section28) and the right to have access to sufficient food (section 27).
“In the past, schools were funded based on actual numbers of pupils, regardless of whether they had a valid identity, passport and permit numbers and not on those registered in the system,” Martens said.
The legal organisation also said it was usually the poor and most vulnerable pupils who failed to obtain proper documentation.
“Often parents or guardians fail to take the necessary steps to register the birth of their children due to lack of access to the Department of Home Affairs, or parents don’t have the necessary documents to have the birth registered or as a direct result of migrant labour,” Martens said.
The LRC is seeking to have the decision by the department set aside and for the department to revise post establishments and funding in line with actual numbers of pupils in schools, regardless of their registration status.
PROTECTING RIGHTS: Claire Martens, LRC spokesperson.