'My dreams have been eroded': With no IDs, these matriculants are stuck in a learning limbo

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Happy Makondo was born in South Africa but has no birth certificate and no ID. He has passed matric but without an ID number on his matric certificate, he can’t get into university.
Happy Makondo was born in South Africa but has no birth certificate and no ID. He has passed matric but without an ID number on his matric certificate, he can’t get into university.
Bernard Chiguvare
  • Civic organisation Save the Children is fighting for the rights of pupils in Limpopo who passed matric, but can't study further.
  • Many are the children of Mozambican immigrants. Though they were born in South Africa, they have no IDs.
  • Without an ID number on their matric certificate, they battle to get into universities.

Happy Makondo was born in Louis Trichardt in 2002 to Mozambican parents. His mother Rose has been trying to get him a South African birth certificate and ID, without success.

He is one of many young people from immigrant families in Vhembe District, Limpopo, who passed matric but are stuck without an ID and can't study further.

"I have never lived in any other country other than South Africa since my birth," said Makondo. He passed matric in 2019 and hoped to study engineering. But with no ID number on his matric certificate, he is stuck. He makes a living by giving extra lessons after school to pupils in Grades 11 and 12.

"My dreams have been eroded," said Makondo.

Save the Children, a civic organisation fighting for the rights of children, says it knows of 26 pupils who wrote matric, but still have no birth certificates and IDs. Most of them live in Elim in the Makhado municipality, and Malamulele in Collins Chabane municipality. Not all passed matric, but even those who did are stuck in the Department of Home Affairs' bureaucratic processes.

Violet Baloyi wrote matric in 2020. She failed and says she won't bother to write again because she has no ID.

She said:

My aim was to be a lawyer and fight for the rights of children who may be facing similar situations. Though I failed matric on the first sitting, I wanted to rewrite, but realised that I am wasting my time as the matric certificate will not be recognised anywhere.

Baloyi was born in 2001 at Elim Hospital after her mother fled the civil war in Mozambique. She says she has never been to Mozambique.

Her mother died in 2012, leaving Baloyi and her sister in the care of their grandmother, who does have a South African ID, but has been battling to get IDs for Baloyi and her sister, who is currently in Grade 11.

"I keep on urging my sister to study until she writes matric. Maybe one day we might get IDs through the assistance of Save the Children," said Baloyi.

Vicky Muvhali, chairperson of Njhakanjhaka traditional council, said there were 50 Mozambican families who had been living in the area since the 1990s, after fleeing civil war in their homeland. He said the council could not help them with documents.

READ | Zimbabwe braces for influx of citizens as special permits expire in SA

Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the ID number on the matric certificate protected the holder from fraudsters who use stolen documents for criminal purposes. He urged parents and guardians to work with the Department of Home Affairs to ensure that they get the birth certificates and IDs.

The Bill of Rights in South Africa's Constitution states that every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth.

As a signatory to the African Charter of The Rights and Welfare of the Child, South Africa has undertaken to ensure that legislation "recognises the principles according to which a child shall acquire the nationality of the state in the territory of which he/she has been born if at the time of the child's birth he/she is not granted nationality by any other state in accordance with its laws".

GroundUp approached Department of Home Affairs spokesperson David Hlabane by email and WhatsApp on 2 November for comment.

He did not respond after several reminders and messages. 

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