For­eigner in his own coun­try

Cape Town teen with Ghana­ian par­ents says bat­tle to ob­tain SA cit­i­zen­ship could ruin his ed­u­ca­tion

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - METRO - TSHEGO LEPULE [email protected]

WHILE the gov­ern­ment mulls over pro­posed reg­u­la­tions that, if en­acted, will deny birth cer­tifi­cates to chil­dren born in South Africa of for­eign par­ents, a Cape Town teenager has spo­ken of his frus­tra­tion with the nat­u­ral­i­sa­tion process.

Khayelit­sha res­i­dent Ebenezer Odei, 18, is ap­ply­ing for cit­i­zen­ship, de­spite be­ing born in South Africa. So far it has been a dif­fi­cult road and he might not be able to study fur­ther next year.

Odei was born in Jo­han­nes­burg in 2000 af­ter both his par­ents moved to South Africa from Ghana with his two older sib­lings. Both his par­ents were granted per­ma­nent res­i­dency in 2001.

His mother, El­iz­a­beth, re­ceived a hand-writ­ten birth cer­tifi­cate for him, which she and her hus­band used to ob­tain a Ghana­ian pass­port for him, af­ter they tried to ob­tain an unabridged birth cer­tifi­cate but were given a doc­u­ment which did not have an ID num­ber on it.

Odei’s two older sib­lings were granted cit­i­zen­ship along with his par­ents, but he was granted only a tem­po­rary res­i­dence per­mit.

“I’m now done with my ex­ams. I’ve been pro­vi­sion­ally ac­cepted at four uni­ver­si­ties to study for a BCom.

“I can­not af­ford fees but have not been able to ap­ply for (fund­ing from) NSFAS (Na­tional Stu­dent Fi­nan­cial Aid Scheme) be­cause I’m not con­sid­ered a South African even though this is the only home I’ve ever known. I just want to study – all my dreams could go down the drain.

“Back in 2008, my fam­ily and I moved to the North West to es­cape the xeno­pho­bic at­tacks and at Home Af­fairs there my mom was told I was not on the sys­tem and she should ap­ply for tem­po­rary res­i­dency for me.”

Grassy Park High School, where Odei has been study­ing since 2014, is rais­ing funds to give him the op­por­tu­nity to study fur­ther next year.

Lawyers for Hu­man Rights’ Robin Le­na­han said Odei’s ex­pe­ri­ences were sim­i­lar to those of thou­sands of chil­dren born in such cir­cum­stances.

She said if the De­part­ment of Home Af­fairs’ pro­posed amend­ment to the Births and Death Reg­is­tra­tion Act was en­acted, it could see chil­dren born to for­eign par­ents in South Africa be­ing barred from re­ceiv­ing birth cer­tifi­cates and the sit­u­a­tion would be much worse for them.

“Legally speak­ing, be­ing born in a coun­try like South Africa does not grant au­to­matic cit­i­zen­ship. For chil­dren (such as Odei), their par­ents are given no­tices of birth cer­tifi­cates, which they can then use to ap­ply for pass­ports for their chil­dren from their coun­try of birth and when the child turns 18, they can ap­ply for cit­i­zen­ship in their own right,” she said.

“But what these new reg­u­la­tions pro­pose is to do away with the is­su­ing of that no­tice of birth, mean­ing that such chil­dren are un­able to ac­cess birth cer­tifi­cates and that means those chil­dren will not be able to ac­cess ba­sic ser­vices such as ed­u­ca­tion be­cause they do not have birth cer­tifi­cates.

“This pro­posed reg­u­la­tion vi­o­lates all our in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions about the rights of a child; it vi­o­lates our own con­sti­tu­tion.”

This pro­posed reg­u­la­tion vi­o­lates all our in­ter­na­tional obli­ga­tions about the rights of a child

Robin Le­na­han

Lawyers for Hu­man Rights

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