The North Gauteng High Court has ordered that eight ‘separated’ minors be allowed to register for and attend public school. The issue arose after public schools were threatened with fines for allowing these children into school, according to the Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme.
‘Separated’ children have been refused entry into SA public schools over a lack of documentation and status because the Department of Home Affairs does not recognise them as dependents of their caregivers. ‘Separated’ children are defined as those separated from both parents, or from their previous legal caregiver.
After the Minister of Education and the Gauteng MEC for Education decided not to oppose the application, the court ordered that the Department of Education allow these minors to register for and attend public school. Lawyers for Human Rights attorney Neo Chokoe said: ‘This case is ground-breaking in that is has opened doors for many separated children who are unable to study because they are undocumented. The judgment is significant in that … applicants will be allowed to register in schools without permits.’
Education organisations said the effect of the judgment would be to place a greater burden on an already stretched public education system. Nomusa Cembi, of the SA Democratic Teachers Union, is quoted in Beeld as saying the Department of Education would now have to provide schools with teachers that can speak the languages of those learners.‘The learners will obviously attend schools that don’t charge school fees and the department would have to increase their subsidies.’
Fedsas deputy head Jaco Deacon said it was unfair for schools to deal with problems that would now arise, including catching up on work missed. SA Teachers Union head Chris Klopper said all schools had limited water, sanitation and safety resources, as well as teaching capacity. Schools’ obligations cannot continue to increase.