South Africa: Xenophobia lives in some schools, human rights meetings are reported

Matriculation children of immigrants born in South Africa are also struggling to get ID cards to enroll in higher education, but the Home Office is trying to fix this.

Children of African immigrants to South Africa experience prejudice and peer victimization in certain schools, some said at a virtual meeting against xenophobia in schools on Saturday.

The human rights organization Africa Unite hosted the event, which was attended by 20 representatives from schools in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. The meeting aimed to strengthen cohesion between native and immigrant learners and to build empathy, unity and peace. It included testimonials from immigrant learners and poetry read by South African learners.

Shalom, whose parents were Zimbabwean (her mother died when Shalom was two), goes to school in Mitchell’s Plain. “Even though I speak both Xhosa and English, it’s hard to sit in class and cope with being ridiculed … apologizing for being myself.”

“It was difficult trying not to be South African at home and trying not to be Zimbabwean at school at the same time. I felt like I was losing myself without knowing who I am.”

She said she was shocked by a conversation among her classmates that said foreigners should leave South Africa. “When my father went to work, I had to keep looking at the door and praying that nothing would happen to me.”

Farayi (we only use first names), also from Zimbabwe, who went to school in Bloekombos, said she learned to communicate in Xhosa but was “still a target”. “I feel like an outsider most of the time. If I had the chance to leave I would definitely go, that’s how deep I feel.”

Teachers can also be disrespected and ridiculed for being African immigrants, said Lindiwe, a 10th grade student at a Catholic school in Cape Town.

GroundUp contacted the head of her school, who said she knew of an incident in April last year. “There was a teacher from Zimbabwe and children made fun of her accent. This was brought to my attention and we looked into the situation to make it absolutely clear that this is totally unacceptable and that such behavior will not be tolerated. “

“All the girls had to apologize; most importantly, they were all sanctioned and punished as part of their learning process,” she said.

Immigrant children born in South Africa said they also had difficulty enrolling for higher education as the Home Office left them in abeyance during the Covid-19 lockdown. The Home Office has tried to fix this through online filings.

Guest speaker Karolyn Mujinga, whose parents are from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, spoke about her battle for registration. “I turned 18 in 2021, but couldn’t apply for citizenship due to Covid-19” [lockdown] … The Home Office only required South Africans to apply for their ID, not undocumented South African born refugees who waited until they were 18, which is a requirement to apply for citizenship. “

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“Many other refugee children and I are in limbo, cannot apply, cannot apply for scholarships, enrollment and the application deadline is getting closer. I don’t have an ID yet and an unabridged birth certificate doesn’t help. “

On June 20, she started a petition calling on the Ministry of the Interior to apply for identification documents for refugee children born in South Africa. The petition received 25,000 signatures.

As a result, the Ministry of the Interior invites in a circular to “relatives of refugees who are enrolled, continue their studies or want to have an offer of employment to apply for ID cards or travel documents online”.

Interior Minister Siya Qoza spokeswoman said it was circulated on July 8th. Relatives of refugees should send an email request to [email protected] with supporting documents such as a school letter, letter of recognition, or university admission.

An automatic reply will be sent to the applicant with the date, time and service that the applicant should contact to complete the application.

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