Do children need an identity document to enroll at a South African school?

Yes – and no. Parents and caregivers of learners should provide any identifying documents currently held, including birth certificates or immunisation cards, but the lack of these documents may not exclude any student from their basic education. Section 11 of the WCED Policy for the Management of Admission and Registration of Learners at Ordinary Public Schools states that in the absence of proper documentation, a learner’s application for admission will be retained for three months, on condition that the parent or learner obtain a birth certificate or ID, or proof of application for a birth certificate or an ID, from the Department of Home Affairs. Caregivers will have three months from their child’s conditional admittance to gather the appropriate documents. Caregivers must also provide evidence that they have applied for documentation in South Africa. This can be very difficult, especially for asylum seeker or refugee parents and caregivers, as their attempts to get documents at Refugee Reception Offices are hard to ‘prove’.

Section 21 of the Admissions Policy for Ordinary Schools states that when persons classified as ‘illegal aliens’ apply for admission for their children or for themselves, they must show evidence that they have applied to the Department of Home Affairs to legalise their stay in the country in terms of the relevant legislation (Immigration Act or Refugees Act, as applicable).5