When education funding relies on ID documents

The LRC are in the process of building a case to challenge the Eastern Cape Department of Education’s policy of only considering the number of children with identification numbers at a school when deciding how much funding to give. This leads to schools which have many children without ID being significantly underfunded.

Phakamisa Senior Secondary School in the Zwide township of Port Elizabeth is such a school. At the beginning of the year, Phakamisa had around 100 pupils without an ID document in attendance. Through the active engagement of the principal in this matter, this number has dropped, as IDs have been sourced.

Today, 46 children at Phakamisa do not have ID. This means that they are not taken into consideration when funding for teachers, school lunches, or school textbooks is apportioned. Because they are not considered, the school must fund these resources for children without IDs from other areas. This further restricts the finances of schools that already are short on funding.

Many of the outstanding cases of children at Phakamisa without IDs are not resolvable. For instance, a child whose birth was not registered who was born to parents whose births were not registered and who consequently left that child with a relative, has no hope of getting a birth certificate. As they have no hope of successfully acquiring a birth certificate, to condition subsidy upon them acquiring a birth certificate is effectively to preclude them from state funding permanently.

S29(1)(a) of the South African Constitution states that everyone has a right to a basic education. This right to basic education has, in recent cases, been found to include a right to a teacher, to textbooks, and to school furniture. Everyone has an entitlement under this right, not just those with identification documents.

The current policy is violating the State’s duty to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the right to education, as laid out in S7(2) of the Constitution. To respect and promote the right, the government must provide resources to all learners irrespective of ID status. It is hoped that the LRC’s litigation will lead to a positive resolution, and the provision of the materials necessary for a basic education without prejudice to possession of ID documents.

By James Rooney

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