Pupils boycott meals after finding maggots
DURBAN - SOME pupils at Ziphembeleni Secondary School in Inanda have boycotted meals prepared by a service provider contracted as part of the National Schools Nutrition Programme (NSNP) after allegedly being served rotten food with maggots.
The pupils, who cannot be named to protect their identities, spoke to the Daily News on Wednesday about the state of the meals served at the school.
They are some of a majority of the pupils at the school who come from poor communities in the area and rely on the food served at the school as their only proper meal of the day.
The pupils alleged that they had found maggots in their food on three occasions this year, prompting them to report the matter to the principal.
But the response they allegedly received led them to stop eating the food in order to prevent themselves from getting sick.
“I had heard of stories of others finding maggots in their food but I did not believe it until I found one in my own food about two weeks ago, and I was disgusted. We took the food to the principal to show her. Instead of doing something about it, her response was that one maggot was not enough evidence to support the allegation that the whole meal was spoilt.
“She said that next time we want to complain about the food, we should come with good enough evidence, not just one maggot. We were disappointed. From my own experience I concluded that we are being served rubbish. I made a decision not to touch that food again,” said one of the pupils.
Following the report being brought to the attention of Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu through a Twitter post on Wednesday, department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said it had taken swift action to investigate the matter.
Mahlambi said that if the allegations were found to be true, the contract of the service provider could be terminated.
For the 2020/2021 financial year, the National Treasury allocated R7.7 billion for the provision of school meals.
Before the advent of Covid-19, the NSNP provided more than 9.7 million of South African’s most vulnerable pupils with a meal every day at schools in quintiles 1 to 3 in the country.
Another pupil said that on another occasion, they were served bean curry and, while eating it, they noticed something in the food. When she and her friends looked closer, they found that it was a maggot.
“We decided to stop eating that food and we went hungry that day. We are now forced to go through the day on empty stomachs. It's heartbreaking to smell the food while it's being prepared and to look forward to the meal, but only to find that it has maggots in it. We are appealing to the department to intervene and make sure that something is done about this situation.”
The Educators Union of South Africa (Eusa) blew the whistle on Tuesday about the allegations by posting a screen grab picture of bags of samp with insects in them, about to be prepared for the high school pupils.
Eusa president Scelo Bhengu wrote: “How can kids have a healthy life when they are fed maggots. Stop being a Twitter hero (referring to Mshengu) and start cleaning your house. At this pandemic period, our pupils are fed maggots in one of your schools and you're busy on Twitter.”
Mahlambi said Mshengu had given a directive to the director of the NSNP to investigate the matter.
“The director for the NSNP is investigating the allegation of rotten food at Ziphembeleni Secondary School. The department regrets such, and if confirmed we will not hesitate to take appropriate action against the contractor.
“The department could go as far as terminating the contract of the service provider. We cannot allow our children to be fed rotten food or food that is not up to standard,” said Mahlambi.