Equal Education urges education department to fast-track probe into KZN school feeding scheme problems

Food is prepared to feed children at a school in the Ugu District on the KZN South Coast on Tuesday. Picture: KZN Provincial Government/Facebook.

Food is prepared to feed children at a school in the Ugu District on the KZN South Coast on Tuesday. Picture: KZN Provincial Government/Facebook.

Published May 3, 2023


Durban - Civil society groups Equal Education and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) have urged the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to move quickly with its investigation into the problems experienced in the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) in KwaZulu-Natal.

In a joint statement from the groups on Wednesday, a Grade 12 Equal Education learner member from Ubongumenzi Secondary School in KZN said trying to focus on school work while hungry was extremely difficult.

“It is very difficult to focus in class when you are hungry as we are used to getting food at school. Many learners leave school before time because of starvation and some do not come to school at all.”

“The Mercury” has reported on challenges raised about the NSNP since the second term started in KZN. The provincial education department changed the feeding scheme system, appointing a main supplier when they had previously had several small-scale suppliers supplying schools in different regions.

It was reported that complaints were raised in recent weeks included inadequate and substandard food being supplied, and collection points for food being far from schools.

An investigation is under way into the contract awarded to the main supplier, by both the national Department of Basic Education and the provincial department.

Equal Education and EELC said the challenges has meant that over 2 million learners in the province — who depend on this lifesaving pro-poor initiative — have been left to go hungry while at school.

“This is a gross violation of the learners’ constitutional right to nutrition.”

They said that in a landmark victory they secured along with SECTION27 in 2020, the Gauteng High Court affirmed the importance of nutrition to the enjoyment of the right to basic education.

“Since the NSNP feeds over 9 million learners every day of the school year, its significance for vulnerable learners cannot be overstated.

“The NSNP has helped to improve learners’ punctuality, school attendance, focus, and overall well-being. Therefore, it is concerning to learn that some learners in KZN have been missing out on what may be their only meal of the day since the start of the second term.”

The groups added that the present hiccup in KZN was most worrying.

“As the situation is being investigated, it is still unknown what is causing the province’s food supply to be interrupted.

“We therefore urge the department to act quickly to resolve the issue so that food delivery can resume to all qualifying learners. While we welcome the interim action taken by the KZN DoE to prevent learners in affected schools from going without food, the DoE must move quickly with its investigation to guarantee it never occurs again.”