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Schools won't accept 3 siblings as pupils

5 Feb 2023

THE South African Human Rights Commission is probing why children in Cape Town, one as old as 13, have never seen the inside of a classroom. The investigation follows the story of a widowed father, Mario Claasen, who has been struggling to admit his three sons, aged seven, nine and 11, to at least three schools for the past five years. The resident of Happy Valley, near Blackheath, said his children have never received formal education after different schools slammed the doors on them despite their hunger to learn. "My eldest son who turns 12 this year cannot even write his name. His sevenyearold brother can because a good Samaritan found and paid for preschool for him to do Grade R. It's heartbreaking," said Claasen. The SAHRC said it would urgently look into the matter and escalated the case to the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. "The failure to place the children at school will increase the level of poverty in communities, instead of getting people out of it through education," said commissioner Chris Nissen.

The Foundation for Education and Social Justice Africa FESJA also vowed to urgently intervene as legislators were expected to pass a law making it a crime for parents who did not send children to school. If adopted, the Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill Bela would make it compulsory for parents to enrol especially Grade 1 children at schools, and failure to do so would make them liable to stiff penalties including 12 months' imprisonment. "We cannot allow a situation where children are denied a place at schools to continue. Education officials should find ways to resolve the challenge of placement," said the organisation's founder and education activist, Hendrick Makaneta. Every year the Western Cape Education Department WCED scrambles to To page 2 EDUCATION DENIED 'Will my unschooled sons become drug runners?' From page 1 place children at the beginning of the year, leaving hundreds sitting at home until March, in some instances. One of the schools Claasen approached is Happy Valley Primary, a stone's throw from the children's home, but he had no luck. The father of three said he also approached Blackheath and Silversands Primary schools with similar results. Section 29 of the Constitution states that everyone has the right to a basic education, a right mirrored in the ANC's Freedom Charter which also guaranteed that "doors of learning and culture shall be open to all".

However, Claasen and other parents have been fighting for the right to be realised. After the death of the children's mother in 2015, Claasen struggled to register late birth applications for the children until the process was finalised in 2019. Armed with the birth certificates, Claasen tried to submit online applications for the children to be placed at schools. "Every application I have made since 2019 has been turned down. Every visit to the education department's office at district and provincial levels was in vain. Even a request for placement from a social worker did not carry weight with the principals of the schools," he said. Claasen said he approached the Happy Valley school principal each year and was told that a space would be made available for them the following year. "During my last visit in 2022 the principal got angry because I also approached the Metro East District and the provincial department of education and accused me of jumping over him. "He refused to help me. Now my children are sitting at home again this year bombarding me with questions every day of why they are not being accepted. I don't have answers. Every day we watch scholar transport dropping off learners from other communities at the school," said Claasen. "My children's future is messed up by a system that has failed us. I worry A WIDOWED father has been knocking on doors since 2019 to have his three boys accepted at schools. I LEON LESTRADE African News Agency ANA about how their lives will turn out. Will they end up being runners for drug lords in this area or scratching through dustbins? "I gave up my job to look after my children and I have nothing to show for the sacrifice. I am living on social grants and I never planned such a life. All I want is a bright future for my children through education," he said. A Patriotic Alliance PA member, Philip October, who tried to help the unemployed father with the matter also approached the Happy Valley school principal last year to plead on the family's behalf. "When I heard of the story, I was shocked. I just can't believe that this is happening in this day and age. I met with the principal again on Friday and he promised to have the matter resolved," said October.

When Weekend Argus visited Happy Valley, children of schoolgoing age were playing or roaming in the streets because their parents also struggled to place them at the nearby schools. A 67yearold grandmother, Lynch Griet, said her 13yearold granddaughter had never been placed at a school and was sitting at home. "Our community is poor. It feels like we were just dumped here. I have asked my neighbours to help me apply online for my granddaughter. I have also visited the district office and they promised to help me. But the promises never turn into action. "I struggle to walk now and can no longer go to the office. She wants to go to school and cries every time we do not get a positive response. It breaks my heart to see her so miserable.," said Griet. The WCED said that the names of the children did not appear on its system for applications dating back to 2021. Spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said there was also no recollection from the district staff about the case. "No one can track any application. They did track the parent's profile on the system, which included a cell number. Attempts to contact the parent have been unsuccessful," she said. Claasen denied this and said he was not surprised at the response. "I have been treated with contempt by officials at the district office. "Why would they have my profile if it was not for the applications for my children?" he said. Makaneta said his foundation would seek an urgent engagement with MEC for Education, David Maynier. At the time of going to print, the WCED was to try another method to track if the children were on the system.

Source: weekend Argus

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The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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