State says ‘boo’ to its ghosts

By Aretha Linden

The Eastern Cape department of education has received an award from its head office, recognising the province for being the first to make identity document (IDs) compulsory for pupils and putting extra effort into ensuring their ID numbers are captured accurately.

According to the department’s spokesman, Malibongwe Mtima, the province went from having hundreds of thousands of pupils without IDs, ghost pupils and those with incorrect ID information, to none to date.

The department received the award last week Friday at a data management conference held in Pretoria. “This award serves as recognition of all our efforts to ensure that all children in school have valid ID documents,” said Mtima.

Last year the department launched a learner verification campaign in which the system picked up that 536000 pupils had no valid IDs or inaccurate ID numbers and that IDs were registered at more than one school.

“The department sent out an urgent call to all the school management teams, school governing bodies, parents and school communities to assist principals in making sure that pupils have valid identities, passports or study permit numbers.

“We have already adopted a policy for all schools to only register pupils with valid identity documents or birth certificates,” said Mtima.

The MEC of education, Mandla Makupula, said it had been alarming to discover that more than half a million children in the province’s schools did not have identity documentation, as this was the first documentation expected to be produced by parents when enrolling their children in a school.

Among the incorrect information submitted to the department was that of a Grade 8 pupil who was said to be 115 years old.

By late last year the department had managed to reduce the number of pupils without IDs and those with incorrect IDs by more than 60%.

Makupula said the significant decrease was attributed to the department’s identification verification campaign.

Mtima said principals who were found to be enrolling children without valid IDs and all the other required documents would be charged.

“We will charge them [principals] with defeating the ends of justice because it is against the law to accept a child who does not have an ID. Besides, we have fought hard not to go back there. We needed to get rid of these ‘ghosts’ in order to move forward,” said Mtima.

He added that the learner verification campaign had saved the department millions of rands and would allow them to budget properly.

“We will save on things like school nutrition programmes and furniture supplies because now we know the exact number to budget for,” said Mtima. — arethal@dispatch.co.za

-Dispatch Live

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