Schools in the Eastern Cape are being pro-active by registering students to obtain identity documents as soon as they turn 16 years-old. This ensures that all learners can register for their matric exams and it cements their place on the South African citizen database.

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Fatima Chohan visited Bethelsdorp Comprehensive School in Port Elizabeth to hand over ID’s as part of the department’s Good Citizenship Programme.

With the documents, learners are not only eligible to write their matric exams, but they will be able to access various government services and apply to tertiary institutions.

Ralph Jakobus, Principal Bethelsdorp Comprehensive School, says that it is important for the learners to get IDs as they cannot write their matric exams or apply for jobs without them.

“It’s a very big thing for learners to have IDs because, as we know, these days without an ID we actually persona nongrata. You can’t write matric exams, you can’t apply for a job and I told some learners actually you can’t get married without an ID. So we regularly encourage the learners as soon as they turn 16 to go for the ID; don’t wait until you need it one day because it’s important. Without that document, there’s nothing one can really do.”

The Good Citizenship programme is nationwide and is aimed at promoting citizenship, identity and human rights among vulnerable sectors. This school was targeted as it is situated in the middle of an area that is plagued by gang-related crimes.

Chohan says that, as South Africans, we need to stand for certain values.

“Their ID documents are not just material, the card, the book they hold in their hands. Yes these are very important documents, but they stand for something and as South Africans, we need to stand for certain values. Unfortunately, young people are exposed to bad role models and ours is to try and tilt the balance a little bit in favour of good role models.”

The Department of Home Affairs seeks to secure the relationship between schools and their local Home Affairs offices to ensure that all learners of 16 and above are able to apply for and obtain identity documents.