People are still having problems registering children with no IDs in schools. Picture: African News Agency(ANA)
People are still having problems registering children with no IDs in schools. Picture: African News Agency(ANA)

Caregivers of children with no IDs still have problems registering them in schools

By Zelda Venter Time of article published Feb 18, 2021

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Pretoria - Caregivers of children with no birth certificates are still having problems registering them in schools.

This is despite the Grahamstown High Court ordering in 2019 that no child be prevented from attending school, simply because they do not have birth certificates, IDs, permits or passports.

“The evidence we have collected so far shows that a number of poor children and their families, especially those living in marginalised communities and in rural areas still encounter barriers when applying for documents at the Department of Home Affairs,” said Mbonisi Nyathi, legal researcher at the UCT Children Institute.

He told the Pretoria News that with the new academic year kicking off this week, some caregivers were still struggling to enrol the children without the necessary documentation.

“We have some clients or primary caregivers who have approached us for assistance with admissions to school for their children without birth certificates, as they struggled to enrol them.”

Some are from the Eastern Cape and others from Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

In all these cases the parents were told by the school principals that their schools were unable to admit learners without birth certificates.

Nyathi said he could not say how big the problem was and whether all schools were not following the directive that was issued by the Department of Basic Education following the court judgment.

“It appears that some school principals are just not aware.”

Nyathi said in some cases he simply had to call the school principals and explain the judgment, after which the issues were resolved, and learners were admitted.

“In some cases, l have written to the school principals explaining the learners’ circumstances and their struggles to get birth certificates. I have also explained the judgment and the subsequent circular that was issued by the department.

“Most of the learners I have assisted are now admitted to schools and now are attending school.”

Nyathi said all school-going children without birth certificates had to undergo a late birth registration process, which was very cumbersome.

“From our experience the categories of children who struggle most with accessing late birth registration are: children in rural areas, children born at home, children whose mothers do not have identity documents and children whose mothers work in another province.”

He said orphaned and abandoned children in the care of relatives always struggled to obtain documentation, as well as children living with unmarried fathers and those whose parents have “red‐flags” on their IDs. Others who struggled are those children born in South Africa to one or two non‐national parents.

The Children’s Institute focuses on the key challenges facing children in South Africa; such as poverty, inequality and violence.

One of their projects is researching birth registration challenges and how these affect access to social assistance for South African citizens.

Zita Hansungule of the Centre for Child Law, meanwhile, said children without birth certificates (or other documentation) had as much a right as other children to go to school and access education.

“The high court has explicitly expressed the fact that denying this group of children access to education was unlawful and ordered the department to conduct itself within the bounds of its constitutional obligation to provide access to the right to basic education for this group of children.

“Denial of the right to education inhibits children’s ability to reach their full potential, uplift themselves and, for a majority of children in South Africa, break cycles of poverty. We call on the department to monitor and ensure the implementation of the court order to prevent children from further missing important schooling,” she said.


A 7- year old (who cannot be identified) was granted admission to a school, subject to his caregiver later submitting his birth certificate.

The child’s mother, who is now dead, however died without an ID, and at the time of the child’s birth she was unable to apply for his birth certificate as she was undocumented, although she was a South African citizen.

As a result, the child is not in possession of a birth certificate.

The Children’s Institute has been assisting his great aunt to apply for the birth certificate but Home Affairs said he must first undergo an interview for his birth certificate to be issued and wait for a call from the department.

Due to lockdown and the subsequent suspension of some of the department’s services, including applications for late birth registrations, he was unable to appear for the interview.

In another case a Grade 8 pupil’s admission to a school was also granted, subject to her birth certificate being later handed to the school.

In this case her mother is also undocumented. But red tape and administrative issues have prevented her from obtaining her late birth certificate.

Pretoria News

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