Pupils receiving meals courtesy of the National School Nutrition Programme. File Picture
Pupils receiving meals courtesy of the National School Nutrition Programme. File Picture

Equal Education's bid to fight against the hunger of millions of learners triumphs

By Zodidi Dano, MaryAnne Isaac Time of article published Jul 22, 2021

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With over 9.6 million learners depending on school meals as the only source of nutrition, it is imperative that each child does not go hungry, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A victory for Equal Education and millions of children, the High Court of South Africa (Gauteng Division) has ordered the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and provincial education departments to develop new plans to feed the millions of learners that depend on the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).

The order stresses that meals must be provided to learners, even when schools are closed because of Covid-19, or learners are at home because of rotating timetables.

Equal Education, in a statement, said the order was a victory for learners’ rights to basic nutrition, basic education, equality and dignity.

"We are hopeful that the new plans that the DBE and provincial education departments have been ordered to develop to improve the rollout of the NSNP, can guarantee that it reaches every single learner who qualifies for it,“ the statement said.

Section27 and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) went back to court in June to ask that the court forces the education departments to submit progress reports on the rollout of the NSNP, like the 2020 court order told them to do, but which they have failed to do since March 2021.

Meanwhile, the Tiger Brands Foundation (TBF) said the civil unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng posed minimal disruption to the in-school breakfast programme that provides nutritious meals to thousands of learners from the most vulnerable communities every day.

In a media statement, the foundation said it will persevere amid the disruption of food supply chains and the road freight industry in the wake of the recent outbreak of looting and violence.

“We are determined to try our utmost best to see the programme continue, despite the widespread looting and destruction that has affected some of South Africa’s major supply chain routes. Where necessary, we will activate our contingency plans to prevent or limit the extent of the disruption to the programme, to ensure that the most vulnerable communities continue to receive nutritious meals,” said Tiger Brands Foundation director Eugene Absolom.

The TBF’s in-school breakfast model was launched to complement the lunch meals provided by the department.

The foundation’s breakfast programme has already been rolled out to 105 schools across all nine provinces in South Africa, feeding more than 79 500 learners each day.

Despite the pandemic disruptions and lockdown restrictions, which resulted in the extension of school holidays, Absolom said the foundation switched to delivering food hampers to the households of pupils, who usually benefit from the in-school breakfast programme.

Absolom affirmed that the foundation remains committed to its mandate to facilitate economic transformation in South Africa through improving learner health and education outcomes.

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