Birth certificate error keeps girl out of school

Fezeka Sohume says her 16-year-old daughter, Liyema Sehume, has been unable to attend school for three years because of an error on the child’s birth certificate. Ms Sohume is holding a document from the Department Home Affairs showing that she applied for a new birth certificate for her daughter.

A Langa woman says her daughter has been kept out of school for three years because of an error on the child’s birth certificate.

Fezeka Sohume says 16-year-old Liyema grew up with her grandmother in Tsolo, in the Eastern Cape, before coming to live with her in 2016. She went to school in Langa until 2018, when the school asked her to leave after it was found her birth certificate incorrectly identified her as a male.

Ms Sohume says she went to the Department of Home Affairs in Bellville to correct the error and was told to reapply for a new birth certificate. She did that in 2019 but is still waiting for the document.

“To this day, I have not received a proper answer or a certificate. My child cries every day when the schools open. I do not know where to go if the Department of Home Affairs cannot assist.

“It pains me to see her sitting at home while others are continuing with their schooling. It has been three years now. She was in Grade 7 when she stopped schooling,” she says, holding back tears.

She says she submitted all the documents the department asked for, except a letter from her daughter’s former school in the Eastern Cape.

“I tried to get the letter from her school in Tsolo but it was tough. They told me about the coronavirus and their machines being down.

“I am heartbroken because this child should have been doing Grade 10 now. I am heartbroken because I can’t register my daughter at school. I can’t even apply or access social grants for her.”

She fears her daughter will face another bleak year without school.

“This means I will have the same problem again. This is too much stress. She will cry every day again. I really do not know what to do. I need help. I want this fixed, so my daughter can go to school again.”

Department of Home Affairs spokesman David Hlabane says he has asked Ms Sohume for the ID number that incorrectly identifies her daughter as a boy to assist with the department’s investigation into the matter.

Western Cape Education Department spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond says the department has always told schools to be sympathetic to the problems some parents experience with Home Affairs documentation. However, the parent does need to show the school proof that they are engaging with Home Affairs.

“If a parent has had challenges with schools directly accepting this documentation, then they are to approach the district office for assistance.”