Outrage over school letter threatening to bar pupils with foreign parents

24 February 2017 - 17:09 By Neo Goba
An empty classroom. File photo.
An empty classroom. File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

A letter informing "all foreign parents" that their children would not be allowed onto school premises on Monday if they could not prove their documentation was in order‚ has sparked fury after being circulated on social media.

While the debate prompted Home Affairs Minister Maludi Gigaba to label it fake news‚ TimesLIVE has established the school was in fact liaising with department officials. Eastleigh Primary School from Edenvale‚ east of Johannesburg‚ summoned parents on Wednesday to verify documents after suspecting that some of them were not in order.

"Every parent needs to bring in the originals to be verified as we have some fraudulent documents. Parents have until Friday 24th February to bring them in‚ if not‚ your child or children will not be allowed on government school property as from Monday 27 February 2017‚" the school said in a letter dated 22 February 2017.

The letter added: "If any foreign child arrives here on Monday we will phone the police to come and collect your child and you can collect your child at the police station."

"These are direct instructions from the Department of Home Affairs."

TimesLIVE called the school pretending to be a parent and were told that indeed parents needed to bring in their documentation for verification purposes.

When we called back a few minutes later‚ we were told that the letter had been withdrawn.

"We have just sent out SMS's to parents to say that the letter that have gone out have been withdrawn so the parents just need to ignore the letter‚" said a woman who identified herself as Mrs J. Wilkin.

Pushed further to find out on what basis was the letter withdrawn‚ she said she cannot respond to that because that was an instruction given to her by school principal Mrs B Cooke-Tonnesen and then immediately hung up on TimesLIVE.

The SMS reads: "The letters that went out to parents has been withdrawn and to be ignored.".

Gigiba took to Twitter‚ saying the instruction had not come from the Home Affairs department.

However‚ Home Affairs confirmed to TimesLIVE their officials visited the school on the 17th of February 2017 as per the school's request.

"I can confirm that we did go to the school. They requested us to come and verify some of the documents that they suspected were fraudulent and that some have expired. Our officials went there last week Friday and then gave them two advices as per our responsibility‚" said media liaison officer Thabo Mokgola.

He stated that the officials told the school to verify the documents of both parents and learners‚ but had nothing to do with the additional information.

"The subsequent element that they listed in the letter were instructions by the school and not by Home Affairs."

The Gauteng Department of Education also confirmed this.

"The Gauteng Department of Education can confirm that the Eastleigh Primary School sent a letter to parents especially foreign nationals encouraging them to sort out their documentation in order to comply with immigration regulations‚" said provincial spokesperson Oupa Bodibe.

He said the department fully supports the need to comply with the laws of South Africa but also cautioned that this needed to be dealt with through a showing of empathy.

- TMG Digital/TimesLIVE