16 March 2016 The struggles of a Stateless Child matter

We often hear about undocumented foreign nationals standing in long queues for their documentation, and the process taking a long time to be successful; yet it is not often one hears about their struggles that stem from being undocumented. On  the 10th of March, GOLD attended a dialogue hosted by The Catholic Parliamentary Liaison Office and The South African Learning and Transformation Centre, which focused on the issue of Stateless Children in South Africa. This dialogue served as a platform for participants to be educated about the issue ,and how this has become a stumbling block for stateless children’s educational progression.

According to Article 1 (1) of the 1954 convention relating to the status of stateless persons:

“A Stateless Person is someone who is not considered as a national by any state under the operation of its laws”

This definition implies that many stateless people are unidentifiable, and consequently struggle to access health care services and education. Nkomazi: one of the communities in Mpumalanga where GOLD Peer Educators live, has over 19 000 orphans (0-19years) counted during the 2011 Census, and declared stateless. Many of their parents passed away years ago, which makes the process of acquiring documents very difficult as no one can lay claim on the child or shed light about the parent’s nationality. Exclusion from school is another stumbling block stateless children have to face if they do not produce any legal documentation.

The inability to receive an education, exposes a stateless child to a myriad of socio-economic , and personal challenges. A story was told at the round table discussion about a young person  who was abandoned as a child without documentation. Growing up the child endured many challenges. The participants at the round table discussion, were asked to imagine how the life of this young person could have unfolded if they had had the correct documents to access education, and other essential socio-economic services.

Hearing the stories of stateless children can leave one pondering about what they can do. It was noted at the discussion that it is imperative for South Africans to be fully informed about the different categories of migrants as well as the different types of documents they would need to access education and other social services.

“Change does not come with information alone”-GOLD Peer Educator. There are different forms of action one could take to address the struggles that confront stateless children. Sustainable Development Goal 4, gives direction to what one could do to assist stateless children. This goal is about ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education,  and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

GOLD is hopeful that every South African will seek to listen to the stories of stateless children, and take action by locking arms with young people who want to help their peers who are labelled as stateless children.