Community leaders decry plight of foreigners' children

Public hearings for a new bill told of undocumented kids' desperation

Refugee children at the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town led in song by their leader JP Balus, in this file picture. Community leaders have expressed concerns about the wellbeing of foreign national children.
Refugee children at the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town led in song by their leader JP Balus, in this file picture. Community leaders have expressed concerns about the wellbeing of foreign national children.
Image: Sunday Times/Esa Alexander

The community of Dr Kenneth Kaunda district municipality in the North West has raised concerns about orphans and children born to foreign nationals who are undocumented and are unable to go to school.

Joyce Motsage, a community planner in Jouberton, told the portfolio committee on social development – which is conducting public hearings on the Children’s Amendment Bill – that a number of children have lost their parents and did not have birth certificates.

“Some of the parents passed on without having birth certificate and IDs, which makes it difficult to get birth certificates for these children and they end up not able to attend school.

"We work very hard to support these children but we are disappointed by the relevant departments because we are not getting help from them,” Motsage said.

Committee chairperson Nonkosi Mvana said the bill is intended to, among other things, resolve challenges relating to the foster care grant payments, parental responsibilities among unmarried parents, child marriages and challenges related to children born to foreign parents and unaccompanied migrant children.

Betty Makamu, a teacher at Are-Bokeng Primary School in Orkney, told the committee that she was worried about child-headed homes.

“These children get food at the school. It would be better if the department can provide them with food parcels. It is really painful to see children going to dumpsites seeking for food. We also need more social workers in our schools.

"A number of children lost their parents to Covid-19 and they need psychological support. Imagine an orphan at a primary school level ... they will not be able to produce good marks,” she said.

Thabiso Medupe, a ward committee secretary, asked the committee to look at the issue of vulnerable children who are falling prey to foreign nationals owning tuck shops in the townships.

“These foreign tuck shop owners are taking advantage of the children from poor families. They entice them with groceries in return for sexual favours,” he said.

Operators of early childhood development centres told the committee that the issue of undocumented children is a serious problem in the district as they are not allowed to register children without documentation.

The committee recommended that the departments of social development, home affairs and education should work together to address the issue.

Mvana said parents should be conscious about marrying or selling off their children for the sake of their own survival.

Dr Kenneth Kaunda district incorporates the Matlosana municipality, which has a huge population of foreign nationals – mainly from Lesotho and Mozambique –due to its extensive mining sector.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.