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Department tackles schools feeding scheme

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AFP

At the start of the first term pupils at 117 of the 5 275 schools dependent on the National School Nutrition Programme went for a few days without food, the portfolio committee on education was told.

KwaZulu-Natal -

The school feeding scheme run at poor schools in KwaZulu-Natal has been handed to a project management firm by the education department, tasked with resolving the problems that continue to impede the billion-rand project’s implementation.

At the start of the first term pupils at 117 of the 5 275 schools dependent on the National School Nutrition Programme went for a few days without food, the portfolio committee on education was told.

The reasons for this, in many instances, were that the suppliers were not paid by the department, or they failed to deliver.

A report handed to the committee at the KZN legislature last week stated that food was not delivered to schools on time, that there was not enough food delivered and that the food provided was not on the menu described by the department.

As of last month there were still 38 schools where pupils were going without their one hot meal a day.

The menu for primary school pupils includes soya mince, pilchards twice a week, a serving of vegetables every day and fruit once a month. There is no milk on the menu.

The project management firm reported that, among the problems with the feeding scheme, was that the monitoring system did not red-flag trouble spots quickly enough to prevent a situation where meals were not provided, and that the service level agreements with suppliers were not strict enough. It recommended that defaulting suppliers be reported to the National Treasury.

At the same portfolio committee meeting, education department officials presented a 48-page report on the measures taken to turn around poorly performing schools in KZN, which the committee had visited as part of its monitoring duties.

It was on the back of these visits that the department received a tongue-lashing from committee chairwoman Linda Hlongwa last month, who charged that it was beset by “laissez-faire” and inept officials.

The problems the committee uncovered during its visits included:

- Allegations of mismanagement of funds by principals.

- Incorrect school quintile (poverty) rankings.

- Classrooms without maths and science teachers.

- Schools without water, and some with tents as temporary classrooms.

In response, the department convened a meeting of its most senior management and drafted an action plan which included time frames and identified the officials responsible to ensure that the issues were resolved. But DA MPL Tom Stokes was not satisfied, calling the report “inadequate”.

He suggested that rather than documenting the incidents for each school, the report should focus on the generic problems that cut across all the schools. - The Mercury


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