In 2015 the management of Mulweli Primary School, in Mpheni village, near Louis Trichard refused to give Sophia Mudau her grade 7 year-end report and the transfer letter she needed to start high school last year.

The reason for the refusal, the school said, was that Sophia did not have a birth certificate and could therefore not be properly registered as a learner at a government school.

The reason for the refusal was that Sophia did not have a birth certificate and could therefore not be properly registered as a learner at a government school.

When Sophia started her grade one at the school several years ago, the fact that she did not have a birth certificate was not an issue. But now that she has completed grade 7, she is unable to start high school without the proper documents.

Sophia does not have a birth certificate because of difficulties at home. Her mother is Zimbabwean and her father is South African. Her parents failed to apply for her birth certificate when she was born.

Sophia’s mother, Elina Manganye, does not have a South African identity book, despite having lived here for 25 years.

“I do not understand why my child is being denied her right to education just because she does not have a birth certificate. I fail to understand why they are making her suffer because of that,” said Manganye.

Even though Sophia’s parents are not legally married, Manganye has been staying with her partner Alfred Mudau (who is Sophia’s father) for more than 15 years.

“It was never my choice to come to South Africa. My parents came here with me when I was a child. Now, when I go to Home Affairs to apply for a South African I.D or birth certificates for my children, who were born here in South Africa, I am told to first go back to my native country and apply for a permit to come back to South Africa,” she said.

“I grew up in South Africa, and my parents have since passed away so I have nobody to help me. Even social workers cannot help me with this problem. And now this means my children cannot go to school,” Manganye said.

Manganye says she cannot return to Zimbabwe as she and her partner Mudau are both unemployed. Sophia has not been to school at all in 2016 because she doesn’t have a birth certificate.

Dr Naledzani Rasila, spokesperson for the Limpopo Department of Education, said Sophia should be allowed to continue with her schooling while her parents sort out the issues regarding her birth certificate.

“Her parents must sort out this problem with the Department of Home Affairs so that Sophia can continue her education this year. She will not be allowed to write matric exams without an identity book or birth certificate,” said Rasila.

Sophia and her parents live in Mpheni village, near Elim.

Home Affairs Department official in Vhembe, Zamba Maluleke, said that the only way the situation could be resolved would be for Manganye to return to Zimbabwe and then re-enter South Africa lawfully. Once she has done that, she will be able to apply for birth certificates for her children.

“It sounds painful, but the law is the law. There is nothing we can do to help her and her children if she does not go back home and apply for a permit to come back to the country legally,” said Maluleke.

An edited version of this story appeared on