iThemba (Hope)

“Assistance is a big lacuna [in the government system]. Without [social] assistance, protection becomes less useful… What is a paper with an empty stomach?”
-UNHCR, Pretoria, February 18 2005

South Africa seems to offer a wealth of opportunities for migrants who travel from all over Africa to seek a better life; many are escaping conflict or discrimination in their home countries. However, an unknown number of these people – a figure estimated at 5 million – remain unregistered migrants at the margins of South African society.


In 2011, the South Gauteng High Court ordered the close of the only Refugee Centre in Johannesburg because the large number of asylum seekers caused “nuisance and irritation” to local businesses in the area. Refugees and Asylum seekers will have to register claims or renew their permits to stay by making a 140km round trip to Pretoria. An expensive journey to an over burdened centre that cannot even guarantee a meeting with a refugee officer. The closure demonstrates an ease with which the government has pushed problems for refugees and immigrants to the margins of society.

iThemba Study Centre is an informal community project set up in Yeoville, Johannesburg to support its local undocumented migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. The study centre manages on a meagre amount of funding from school pupils, various churches and education charities. The teachers can only afford to work at the school on a short-term voluntary basis. The children aged 8 – 16 years old come from a wide range of countries in Southern Africa including Botswana, Zimbabwe and Democratic Republic of Congo. The children study at iThemba because they are not able to access mainstream education. Many of these children’s families to do not have the necessary permits or can afford the fees. South African and International Law protects the Rights of Children, regardless of their status. The children’s experience of discrimination based on their status is not unusual.



A 2003 study commissioned by UNHCR found that about 25% of the children of respondents were denied access to education because the schools did not accept their asylum seeker or refugee permits. Nevertheless, South African Government struggles to meet the basic rights of their own nationals therefore it is unsurprising the needs of asylum seekers and refugees are not met. The Department of Social Development is supposed to provide for all children in need of care; however it is informal, local community groups that support asylum seekers and refugees. iThemba is one example of community activism in one of the most multicultural and diverse areas in Johannesburg. For these children, the school is where growing up in South Africa offers at least the means of finding opportunities that lead to a brighter future.

Balroom Dancing

A short story written by Sharon Mukaya

Once upon a time the was a man who lived with his daughter and his wife and his son to his douter was fourteen years old. He find out that the was a thing called Balroom Dancing let me get said John

John Danced with the New Boys who came to Dance the had to precticse so hard I’m geting it. said chick.

The was a girl called Pulina She was the second teacher of Dancing the first teacher was Mrs Meating She was teaching the people Dancing a Bilay Dancs* the was a girl called Marina She was so Beatiful But Paulina was Beauticuler than Marina She was Dancing with the fat man Frunk But Frunk was sweting and he was smelling so she prefad to Dance with John I can Dance with John. said Marina.

The was a competition and the won.


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