As children across Quebec gear up for the start of the school year, close to 5,000 undocumented children in the province will be left behind, according to the Education Across Borders Collective, a Montreal-based advocacy group.
A week before most students head back to class, Education Across Borders Collective is calling on the Quebec Education Minister to modify the law to open up schools to all children living in Quebec.
The Commission scolaire de Montréal, Montreal's French language school board, says fewer than five undocumented students applied for studies last year.
CSDM spokesman Alain Perron said those children were accepted to study for free following a directive by the Ministry of Education.
Mahalia Garzon Boctor, 12, attended a news conference hosted by Education without Borders on Monday.
She said it's not fair she may attend school in Quebec, while others are excluded.
"I believe that education is a right, not a privilege," she said.
According to Education Across Borders Collective, many of Quebec's undocumented children are from families who were refused refugee status, but continued to live in the province, under the radar.
Often those families can't afford the cost of sending their children to school in Quebec, which advocates say can range from $5,000 to $6,000 per year for undocumented children.
“This should be an important issue to anyone who cares about children, not only from a sympathetic perspective, but from an economic one, because these kids are going to grow up and Quebec needs an educated workforce,” said Malek Yalaoui, a member of Education Across Borders Collective.