Many of the children born to refugee and asylum seekers are forced to stay home, unable to go to school because they do not have the proper documentation. Now, an education project is helping to bridge the gap.

The Three2Six project provides classes for undocumented children, including South Africans who do not have birth certificates.

Providing a foundation

“The project is a bridging school, that means we are helping learners who cannot access going to the mainstream schools. Instead of them staying at home because of the lack of documentation for them and their parents, we take them and we give them lessons,” says Justine Kimbala, co-ordinator at Three2Six.

The school offers lessons to children who are in the foundation phase classes starting from Grade R to Grade 3. Three2Six teaches children life skills, numeracy and literacy lessons. When the children move on to school, “you find that they have not missed anything,” adds Kimbala.

Helping vulnerable parents

Most of the learners’ parents work in the informal sector as  street vendors, hairdressers, domestic workers and in restaurants. They are among the millions of South African residents who were affected by the lockdown. Unlike citizens and some documented migrants, however, they were left out of the government’s lockdown relief measures. Three2Six also has a feeding scheme and through its donors also provides food vouchers to parents.

Bibi-Mputu Mukendi is one of parents who received these vouchers.

“This project helps my child to go to school for free. I do not pay any cent. It also helps us with food in this time of lockdown. Since I am not paying the fees for my child, I save every cent I get from my casual jobs for rent, food and other issues” she says.

Mukendi was disappointed that relief programmes excluded undocumented because everyone in the country is affected by the lockdown.

“I was shocked to see that the government is not trying to help foreigners who are in need. When you go to any organisation or project that was created for this purpose, before they help you they first ask for the ID. Without an ID you are already disqualified. It’s hurt a lot,” says Mukendi.

Children adjusting to the “new normal”

Health-e also spoke to some of the children who have also had to adjust to the “new normal” brought by COVID-19.

“I cannot play with my friends, I cannot hug my friends and my teacher,” says 9-year-old Shama.

10-year-old Owami says, “We used to sit on the benches where we eat and now we cannot sit because of the coronavirus. We cannot do sports because of the coronavirus, we have to maintain our social distance every time.” – Health-e News