South Africa: The Undocumented Children Denied the Right to Go to School

(file photo).

In January thousands of children began the 2019 school year, some for the first time. Parents proudly posted photos of their children in new uniforms on social media. It was undeniably an exciting and optimistic time of year. But the same could not said for 37 children in the Eastern Cape who have been denied the opportunity to attend school because they are undocumented.

The children, South Africans and non-nationals between the ages of six and 17, were removed from school or denied admission as long ago as 2014. Most have been denied the opportunity to attend school since 2015.

Some of the children described the humiliation and shame they felt when their names were called out in the class by a social worker, who told them, in front of their peers, that they could no longer attend school because of their undocumented status. After this announcement they were made to pack their belongings, again in front of their peers, and were sent home, underlining the growing stigma children without birth certificates face.

A parent explained that "having a birth certificate is a symbol of status and people who do not have one are looked down on. [My child] has...

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