Some of the ills within our education system are resolved simply by supplying learners 16 years and older with their democratic right to an identity document (ID) which is vital to their progress, careers and lives.

However, the awful truth in South Africa currently is that the number of children above the age of 16 years without an ID has multiplied. The Department of Home Affairs has simply not risen to the challenge to provide IDs to learners in poor communities since the smart card process.

As Valued Citizens Initiative, we firmly believe that it is essential to develop Constitutional literacy, this process starts with giving children an ID. The School, Lights and Rights Campaign, made possible by the partnership with La Voix de l’Enfant and Engie Foundation, is touching the lives of learners from 9 public high schools across the Gauteng Province. This Valued Citizens Initiative campaign seeks to ensure that obtaining an ID is a priority for our youth in order to be able to protect their rights and take responsibility as Valued Citizens of South Africa.

Some of the challenges in obtaining smart IDs since the green barcoded identity books were discontinued in 2017, include the frequent changes in compliance requirements. Be that as it may we have also noted with appreciation that since April 2018, the Department of Home Affairs is making efforts to open on Saturdays in order to accommodate our learners. Valued Citizens Inititive has taken advantage of this opportunity to reach its targets of registering 1 800 learners. So far, out of our 2099 learners without an ID, 724 collected their ID (34%), and 1375 have completed the registration process (65%) before the school holidays.

The School, Lights and Rights campaign focus is not only limited to the issue of IDs but also on the development of the understanding of the Constitution. However at this moment, as the months dwindle ahead of this year’s preliminary exams, this is an issue of paramount importance. An ID is crucial for citizens to be fully integrated in society and to access services including writing matric, casting a vote during political elections, applying for higher learning and securing employment. To put it mildly, the lack of an ID document is crippling at best. An ID is a right and a basic necessity. They can do very little without it.

Valued Citizens learners above 16 years receiving their ID and the solar lamp from Engie Foundation