South Africa: Estelle August on access to education
04 March 2019

Estelle August in front of the audience during the workshop on education for all children living in SA Image: JRS
“Your documentation speaks for you,” Ms August

Johannesburg, 4 March 2019 - Approximately 165 refugee and asylum seeker parents came to listen to Estelle August, Deputy Chief Education Specialist at the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) in Johannesburg. Her workshop, conducted on the 13th of February, focused on the importance of access to education for all children living in South Africa. The GDE abides by international and national laws regarding refugees and asylum seekers when dealing with children, and Ms August highlighted a few procedural steps that parents should take before registering their children to attend school. 

She stressed that all documents must be valid to get educational assistance. Asylum seekers face an additional challenge as their documents expire every 6 months and must be regularly renewed. Even children that are born in South Africa are still required to regularly submit their parents’ updated documentation. Children using asylum seeker and refugee documents are required to supply the school with consistently updated documents or risk being dismissed from school. “Your documentation speaks for you,” Ms August said, referencing the consequences of submitting incomplete or expired documents.

The importance of showing respect and dignity to principals, teachers, district officers, and people in general, was also discussed. As Ms August stated, “respecting others is the easiest way to receive respect in return”.

During the Q&A session followed Ms August’s talk, the parents raised questions about the education of their children and the refugee community as a whole.

In closing of the event, a lit candle was accompanied by Ms August’s words: “there is a significant difference between a match and a candle. A match has very limited lighting only. A candle has light for a long time – be a candle, go, and pass it on”. We can all spark the light of a quality education for everyone.

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Ms. Irene Galera
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