More than a dozen attorneys and advocates lined up yesterday in the Eastern Cape High Court (Grahamstown) battle against Home Affairs and national and provincial education departments, in which an NGO and a school seek to give undocumented children in SA free access to basic education.

A Daily Dispatch report says the ground-breaking case involves 37 Eastern Cape children who were denied access to school because they had no birth certificates, study permits or passports.

The provincial schools began denying access to undocumented pupils in 2016 after the Education Department issued a circular warning schools that they would no longer fund undocumented children.

The Centre for Child Law and Phakamisa High School in Port Elizabeth – represented by the Legal Resources Centre – are challenging all the regulations and laws that inhibit undocumented children from accessing basic education.

They are arguing that they constitute an unjustifiable limitation on children’s constitutional right to access basic education as well as their right to equality and dignity.

Both the Human Rights Commission and Section 27 have joined the application as amicus curiae.

The Home Affairs and Education Department are opposing the case. Under attack is the admission policy of public schools, which require documented pupils to produce a birth certificate within three months or face exclusion.

The report notes the matter is being heard by a full Bench.

Full Daily Dispatch report (subscription needed)