Concerns over school feeding schemes and shortcomings
Durban - CIVIL rights organisations have expressed concern that almost 2 million pupils are still not receiving food as part of the school nutrition programme.
Equal Education, Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) and Section27 said they were “extremely worried” that the National School Nutrition Programme was still not reaching pupils on the days when they were at home because of rotating timetables.
They said the latest court-ordered progress report from the Department of Basic Education showed that nearly 2 million pupils were not receiving food.
Equal Education said that a survey of “Equalisers”, who are pupil members of Equal Education, across five provinces, conducted in midSeptember, showed that 76% of participants (96 out of 125) were currently attending school according to a rotating timetable.
“Of the Equalisers who said they are only attending school on some days, 69 (71%) said they didn’t get a meal on the days when not at school. About 98 of 125 Equalisers said their school does not provide transport for pupils who stay far away and need to collect food from school,” Equal Education said.
More than half, 52.8% of participants, said they knew of other pupils in their community who were not getting food from their schools on days when they were at home.
In KwaZulu-Natal, 81%, or nine out of 11 pupils, said they were only attending school on some days and that they did not receive a meal on days when they were not at school. Some pupils said there was no scholar transport to collect meals.
In the Eastern Cape, of the six Equalisers who said they were only in the classroom on some days, 83%, or five, did not receive a meal on the days when they were not at school. All nine participants said their school did not provide transport for pupils to collect food at school.
Forty-seven out of 62 pupils (75%) in Gauteng said they only attended school on some days, and 31 said they did not receive a meal on the days when they were not at school, while in the Western Cape, 95% of pupils surveyed said they did not receive a meal on days they didn’t have to be at school.
“It is important that the government makes sure that meals are reaching pupils if they are not at school on a particular day because of physical distancing,” the groups said.
“The Education Department must fully and urgently apply themselves to ensuring that the right of pupils to basic nutrition is upheld – anything less is unacceptable, when the consequences are so devastating for pupils and their families.”
Section27 and EELC said they had written to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Education MECs to highlight problems with the reports, including that most provinces do not have plans to ensure the right of pupils to basic nutrition is upheld for all, including for pupils who are at home; a lack of clarity in the reporting figures; and the urgent need for a reliable plan for transport to collect meals.
Asked to comment on the concerns, Education Department spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said the department was addressing the issue of school nutrition.
“The Department of Basic Education’s director-general is currently meeting with provinces on a one-onone basis, and school nutrition is one of the topics discussed there. Once all reports have been collected we will be in a position to give details.”
KZN Education Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said when schools opened in June, all pupils were being fed and going to school to collect their food, whether they were attending classes or not.
“We are aware of how many pupils are in a particular area, so pupils don’t have to travel or walk long distances. They go to a school in the area and the school nutrition directorate makes sure there is enough food for pupils.”