Registering pupils without birth certificates is simply logical

11Jan 2020
The Guardian
Registering pupils without birth certificates is simply logical

AN ongoing drive to register mobile phone simcards on the basis of biometric identification accompanied by national identification numbers seems to have altered attitudes somewhat.

It is becoming a misnomer for anyone to register for anything significant without a number or something similar, such that pupils being admitted to Standard One have to get the dispensation of the minister, where they lack birth certificates. That looked astonishing to many people.

The Minister of State in the President's Office (Regional Administration and Local Governments), Selemani Jafo had to make an intervention or say a clarification during a tour of Bahi district in Dodoma region where he witnessed registration of primary school pupils and Form One students at various public schools. He told school authorities that there have been complaints from people across the country that their children were being prevented from joining primary schools over lack of birth certificates. There was an effort to get birth certificates for under-five children in particular, but definitely not an order not to receive school children without having a birth certificate.  Nothing is risked in not having the certificate, as it is a formality to help school and other authorities to keep records.he

The minister pointed out that a birth certificate is the right of every child, in which case it is an added plus to what there is already about any child – starting from breastfeeding to vaccination, onward to birth certificate and pre-school facilities, etc. In that case it ought not to be a hindrance to registering for school when it happens not to have been collected or delivered as yet. It isn’t a requirement as the child – or the parent – won’t do anything wrong due to that detail.

Minister Jafo thus directed headteachers to conduct the registration exercise fully, by ensuring that all eligible children are registered while their parents complete procedures to acquire their birth certificates. Nor shall anyone expect that they are constantly reminded to do so, as schools have parental meetings where such issues can be raised, or emphasized. Pressuring the little ones about such details is next to mere harassment, as it isn’t their fault, surely.

At times there are disputes between adults that lead to children not getting birth certificates in time, especially disputation about parentage, on the father’s side. A proper birth certificate isn’t just a record of when the child was born, the facility of delivery and the mother, and perhaps the health condition at that moment. It is the proper identification that the child is given, and so to speak it is unalterable, and thus the possibility of tedious mind games that adults play on the issue, around cardinal issues of ‘hide and seek.’

The same requirement of registration definitely applies to those being admitted to Form One, where the minister insisted on headmasters to receive Form One students unconditionally, urging parents and guardians to ensure their children report to particular schools on time. It is a directive that must have been received squarely and pointedly, to avoid disturbing pupils and students for little reason. At a time when the government is making effort to ensure there is free education for all children up to secondary school, some authorities may cling to formalities to hinder these goals, or even to solicit a bribe for a pupil to be admitted. That ought to stop.