EduSA – the national association of English language schools in South Africa – says on its website it has submitted court papers challenging the South African government and policy makers about their failure to make proper allowance for visas for international students wishing to enter South Africa to study English as a foreign language.
EduSA’s 24 members are English language schools that teach English as a foreign language to foreign nationals who come to South Africa for weeks or months at a time. According to chairperson Johannes Kraus, this brings hundreds of millions of Rands in foreign investment to South Africa – if the students are allowed to enter the country.
“Globally the industry is worth billions of dollars. In South Africa, though, potential foreign students
are being prevented from studying here by the Department of Home Affairs through its refusal to
issue the necessary visas. While South Africa currently only accounts for about 1% of the global
English Foreign Language market, the country’s favourable exchange rate, climate, cost of living and quality of life make it a potential market leader. ”
According to Kraus, at the core of the dispute are the incompatible views held by the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Higher Education and Training on the requirements of the
regulations, and more specifically what type of accreditation the EduSA institutions need in order to
obtain study visas.
“There is a fundamental issue at stake in terms of the regulations’ failure to make proper provisions
for educational institutions such as those forming part of EduSA. We have made repeated, concerted efforts to resolve these difficulties through dialogue with the respective departments, but no answers have been forthcoming. The industry is floundering: institutions are closing, jobs are being lost, the country’s international reputation is taking a knock and we are losing hundreds of millions of Rands.”
Commencement of the court case is imminent. Kraus and his legal team hope to have Regulations
issued in terms of section 13 of the Immigration Act of 2002 reviewed or set aside. “Currently, the
regulations make provisions for visas for “learning institutions”, but they do not make allowance for
EduSA institutions to be considered as such. The case hopes to bring a change to the regulations that would see EduSA institutions legally declared as “learning institutions” and allow our students to enter South Africa and commence their studies. We hope to urgently resolve this matter and allow our members, their staff and the international students to return to normal operations. The social and economic implications of any further delay in the process are too awful to consider.”
TourismUpdate.co.za reports that following changes to the requirements for study visas, there was a 10% drop in students coming to study English in South African language schools.
An initial hearing in the High Court of South Africa has been scheduled for October 28. “There has been a response from the various stakeholders. We then responded to that and now it’s for the attorneys and advocates to organise their arguments,” said Kraus.
Mayihlome Tshwete, Spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs, told Tourism Update that they would make their argument in court. Kraus said, depending on the market the school focused on, two-thirds of the income was affected by students who were unable obtain the correct visa for a long-term booking. “What we can say for all the schools is, because our business is seasonal, the long-term bookings that arrive in February, March and April and then stay for up to nine months really help us in the downtime,” said Kraus. “Visitor visas are not enough; we need study permits for that.”
In a separate development, David Frost, Satsa CEO, recently said the association was considering legal action against Home Affairs to scrap the requirement that children travelling to South Africa produce an unabridged birth certificate.