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Court helps 8-year-old girl start school

By Tania Broughton Time of article published Apr 4, 2016

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Durban - An 8-year-old girl will attend school for the very first time on Monday morning after her desperate parents - whose battle to obtain a birth certificate for her or enrol her at a school without one had come to naught - turned to the high court for help.

And while their urgent application was adjourned to give the respondents - the national and provincial education ministers and the minister of Home Affairs - time to file papers, lawyers acting for them said a space had been found at a local school and the child would be assessed and then placed there on Monday.

Advocate Stuart Humphrey, briefed by Durban’s Legal Resources Centre to represent the couple, placed on record that the departments had promised to work together to ensure that the child and her 2-year-old sister got birth certificates.

And they would also attempt to get some sort of ID for the mother, an orphan from Swaziland who has no papers at all - the root cause of the entire problem.

The couple - who cannot be named to protect the identity of their children who were both born in Durban - said the eldest, who turns 9 this year, had had no formal education at all because she had been turned away from schools since 2014 because she had no birth certificate.

That was because the mother was a “stateless person and unidentifiable”.

In his affidavit, the father said the mother, his common-law wife, was born in Swaziland and placed immediately in an orphanage where she lived until she was 15.

She had never known her biological parents.

“She was abused at the orphanage and as a result, she fled to Durban, arriving in February 2007.

“I met her then, about nine years ago,” he said.

After the birth of both of their children, they had repeatedly attempted to register and get birth certificates for them but were always turned away because of their mother’s lack of ID document.

“We tried in vain to obtain proof of identity for her from Swaziland.

“We contacted the orphanage, but we were told they had no records for her and, if they did, they would have been destroyed.

“Without an ID number, she cannot even make enquiries through the various government departments to obtain proof of her identity.

“And now we cannot even make an application for her to become a permanent resident of South Africa. And our children, without birth certificates, cannot be enrolled in a public school.”

He said the eldest had been attending informal educational classes at the local library after being refused enrolment for Grade 1 at their local school at the beginning of last year.

Again, in spite of being assisted by their attorneys, she was turned away from another local school at the beginning of this year.

“Our children have a constitutional right to education. But it seems these schools think they have the right to deny them admission,” he complained.

The respondents indicated they would file papers by the end of this month.

The Mercury

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