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Durban - About 400 000 pupils at schools in KwaZulu-Natal are without a birth certificate or an ID book. This was revealed by the Department of Education when it appeared before the finance portfolio committee recently.

This issue, according to department officials, is partly to blame for the R700million shortfall in the department’s budget. The issue about child documents has been raised in the past and was a source of complaints by senior officials in the department.

They said they could not be held accountable for parents failing to register the births of their children and getting the documents.

Chairperson of the Finance Committee, Sipho Nkosi, said the matter was of concern and should be urgently resolved to ease the financial pressure faced by the department.

“The department told us there were about 400 000 children studying in schools who were without ID books or birth certificates. This means that while they are at school, they are not funded by the National Treasury. The department does not get the money for their books, meals and norms and standards from national government, but pupils must get the resources when at school, and the department is saying this is partially responsible for the budget shortfall,” he said.

Nkosi said that he estimated that the department was being short-changed by more than a billion rand. 

"The department is under financial pressure and if we can get that money, it will ease some of the pressure it is facing,” he said.

He said the issue of IDs and birth certificates was a huge problem, especially in the rural areas.

Nkosi said he recently held a meeting with traditional leaders in uMkhanyakude District Municipality, northern KwaZulu-Natal, where the problem was rife.

“I asked them to assist in keeping proper records of the people living or born in their areas.”

National Teachers Union deputy president, Allen Thompson, said they were aware of the problem and blamed the department.

“Young children cannot be held to ransom for not having IDs, which is primarily the ­responsibility of their parents,” he said.

Department of Education spokesperson Scelo Khuzwayo urged parents to ­ensure their children had all the relevant documentation, but assured that the department would not remove a child from school if they did not possess a birth certificate or ID books.

The Mercury