SAHRC admitted as friend of court in undocumented children case
The high court in Grahamstown on Tuesday admitted the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) as a friend of the court in a case concerning the right of undocumented pupils to have access to basic education.
The court heard the commission’s application to be part of the case on Tuesday. It was launched in 2017 by the Centre for Child Law and 25 others versus the Minister of Basic Education and four others.
It will be heard in September.
The centre applied for an order that no pupil may be excluded from a public school on the basis that he or she does not have an identity number, permit or passport.
The commission said on Tuesday it was hopeful that this litigation would provide much-needed clarity in relation to the scope and meaning of the right to a basic education insofar as undocumented pupils were concerned.
It said the lack of documentation affected South African, stateless, refugee and migrant children, as well as the children of asylum-seekers, who remain some of the most vulnerable in society.
It said despite guidance having been provided by international human rights bodies confirming that the right of access to education was guaranteed to all persons, irrespective of documented or legal status, the current legal system in SA did not provide adequate protection to such pupils.
The commission said the exclusion of children from accessing a basic education would have devastating implications, not only on the individuals concerned, but on the country and the region.
“This case is therefore crucial in ensuring that the country aligns itself to international human rights standards, and is a critical step in ensuring universal access to the right to a basic education, to non-discrimination, dignity, and the rights of the child in South Africa,” the commission said.