Im­mi­grant pupils fear ex­pul­sion

Schools ask for doc­u­men­ta­tion

The Witness - - NEWS - NOKUTHULA KHANYILE • nokuthula.khanyile@me­dia24.com

IM­MI­GRANT pupils in the city fear ex­pul­sion af­ter they were asked to sub­mit either a South African iden­tity doc­u­ment, a valid pass­port or study per­mit to their schools.

Con­cerned par­ents who spoke to The Wit­ness said they were is­sued with let­ters by pub­lic schools last term urg­ing them to sub­mit these doc­u­ments as per a direc­tive from the Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment.

Mar­tin Mpaca, orig­i­nally from the Congo, who has been in the coun­try for 17 years, said she feels pow­er­less.

“I have a son who is in Grade 8 and a daugh­ter in Grade 4. When I re­ceived these let­ters I was shocked. My chil­dren were born here at Grey’s and North­dale hos­pi­tals. I have been in the coun­try since 2000.”

Mpaca said she does not know where to turn be­cause her chil­dren have been us­ing the refugee sta­tus pa­pers all along.

“My chil­dren have been us­ing pa­pers I re­ceived from Home Af­fairs all along and there were no is­sues. Now they are telling me be­cause they were born here they must be cit­i­zens. I have been to Home Af­fairs many times to get per­mits for my chil­dren and it has been fruit­less.”

She said she is afraid for the fu­ture of her chil­dren and whether or not they will be al­lowed to con­tinue study­ing.

“What if the depart­ment re­fuses to ac­cept them back? The whole in­ci­dent has been very trau­matic for my chil­dren. They keep ask­ing what will hap­pen to them,” she said.

Di­dien Kabwe, a Con­golese leader in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, said par­ents are con­fused by what is go­ing on.

“The pa­pers they are us­ing are is­sued by Home Af­fairs. It is a sur­prise to us that sud­denly the same pa­pers are de­nied by some of the South African de­part­ments.”

Kabwe said new poli­cies on refugees af­fected them in terms of in­te­grat­ing in the South African so­ci­ety.

“Refugees don’t use pass­ports; they are us­ing spe­cific pa­pers which al­low them to work and study here. We are con­fused and don’t know where we can get these pa­pers.”

He said the gen­eral per­cep­tion among im­mi­grants is that this is the gov­ern­ment’s re­sponse to the xeno­pho­bic at­tacks.

“We think this is a way the gov­ern­ment is re­spond­ing to the needs of peo­ple to get rid of im­mi­grants.”

A con­cerned So­ma­lian father said his daugh­ter who is in Grade 8 is also heart­bro­ken af­ter re­ceiv­ing the let­ter. “We have tried to get the nec­es­sary per­mits with no luck. My daugh­ter loves go­ing to school here. She is afraid of what will hap­pen if gov­ern­ment bars her from writ­ing her ex­am­i­na­tions.”

KZN Ed­u­ca­tion Depart­ment spokesper­son Kwazi Mthethwa said there is a con­cern­ing num­ber of pupils with­out valid iden­tity doc­u­ments in the pre­scribed na­tional South African School Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Management Sys­tem.

“We just want to make sure that the in­for­ma­tion sup­plied to the schools matches those at Home Af­fairs. Par­ents must sub­mit the nec­es­sary doc­u­men­ta­tion for pupils to be ac­cepted in gov­ern­ment schools.

“All pupils should meet the re­quired standards whether they are South African or not,” he said.

He re­ferred the con­cerned par­ents to the In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co­op­er­a­tion Depart­ment.

KZN Refugees spokesper­son Moses Kilozo said the par­ents do not have any other op­tions. “We are urg­ing gov­ern­ment to do some­thing to as­sist be­cause with­out ed­u­ca­tion our chil­dren can­not do any­thing.”

“My chil­dren have been us­ing pa­pers I re­ceived from Home Af­fairs all along and there were no is­sues. Now they are telling me be­cause they were born here they must be cit­i­zens. I have been to Home Af­fairs many times to get per­mits for my chil­dren and it has been fruit­less.”

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