The fundamental right to basic education is a plight for many undocumented youngsters, leaving them with deteriorating hope for a bright future.
The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) recently published a discussion paper, urging all provincial education departments and home affairs departments to prioritise the right of education for undocumented pupils.
This follows an incident last year when Eastleigh Primary School in Edenvale sent a letter to parents, informing them that the department of education instructed that undocumented pupils submit the necessary paperwork or face arrest.
SAHRC said the Gauteng department reacted urgently to the matter and ensured that the correct information was sent to all parents.
“The department took steps to ensure that affected children could return to school,” said SAHRC in a statement.
The commission emphasised the importance of education for all and said it was important for all children to receive equal education.
“The right to a basic education as contained in Section 29 of the constitution is compulsory, universal and immediately realisable – meaning that it is guaranteed to all persons, regardless of nationality, status, or documentation,” said SAHRC.
SAHRC recommended that the department of education issue directives to all schools to admit and retain all undocumented pupils.
“The department of basic education is directed to review the laws, policies, protocols and other documents or decisions pertaining to access to public schools for undocumented [pupils], and must establish adequate safeguards to protect and promote the fulfilment of the rights,” said SAHRC.
The commission found it problematic that this right was continuously overlooked by various departments.
“Despite these legal and constitutional protections, the commission, together with other stakeholders, continue to receive multiple reports of threats and intimidation, refusal to enrol [pupils] in schools, or the subsequent exclusion from schools as a result of the lack of documentation,” said SAHRC.