Immigrant pupils fear expulsion

2017-07-14 14:37
Local public schools have asked parents for proper documentation.

Local public schools have asked parents for proper documentation. (File)

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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 Co-operation 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.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  refugees

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