Immigrant child barred from school for lack of documents

School’s action directly contradicts instructions of ministers of Home Affairs and of Basic Education

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Photo of Aaron Motsoaledi
Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi after he briefed Parliament in October. He said of immigrant children, “Send them to school … We’ll look at the documentation later.” Photo: Tariro Washinyira

An immigrant child has been out of school for a year after Bodibe Intermediate Public School near Mahikeng refused to enrol him because he lacks documents.

The parents received a letter from the school on 8 January stating: “This communique serves to confirm that the school is unable to register [name of child] due to lack of basic documentation of learner registration by his father. Non-citizens.”

The father, Paul Mpofu, is Zimbabwean and has no documents giving him the legal right to live in South Africa. The child was born in Zimbabwe. He was nine years old when the family moved to South Africa in 2010. He completed grades two to seven at Matlaba Primary School and grades 8 and 9 at Bodibe Intermediate. But the school turned him away for grade ten in January.

Mpofu said after he read a GroundUp article quoting Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi saying in October that every child needs to go to school regardless of documentation, he went back to Bodibe Intermediate, but the school still refused to take his son.

Mpofu said he had also tried in May after EWN reported that Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga had said that schools should neither refuse migrant learners’ entry nor remove them if they don’t have proper documents.

GroundUp could not get a response from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) Spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga. He never answered his landline or mobile. An email was sent to him on 26 November. On 27 November, GroundUp was advised through the switchboard to send an email to Terence Khala, who also did not respond. The email was also copied to In a text message on 28 November, Mhlanga said, “Please resend because I never received your email.” He provided the same email address GroundUp used to send the first email. The reporter forwarded the questions but he never responded.

GroundUp emailed and phoned the Northern Cape provincial education department on Monday and Tuesday. We were told the spokesperson would be in the office next week.

The principal of Bodibe Secondary School did not answer his phone on Monday. GroundUp sent him a copy of the letter he used to bar the child from school on Whatsapp on Monday with some questions. He read the questions but did not respond.

Ngqabutho Nicholas of the African Diaspora Forum said in January 2020 the organisation would “embark on a project that monitors schools provincially and nationally … to investigate if what the Minister of Home Affairs instructed to schools is being implemented”.

TOPICS:  Education Immigration

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