Picture Mphathi Nxumalo
Durban - THE South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) has raised concerns about the quality of food being supplied to pupils under the multibillion-rand National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).

The union addressed the media yesterday after its provincial general council (PGC) last month.

The programme supplies food to almost all schools in KwaZulu-Natal.

It is estimated that it provides meals to 2.3 million pupils in more than 5000 schools.

Tenders to appoint service providers have been mired in controversy after losing bidders took the department to court last year, calling for the appointments of suppliers to be overturned.

“We continue to raise concerns about the quality of supplies, which are reported to be stale sometimes,” said Sadtu provincial secretary Noma­rashiya Caluza.

She said that recently there were reports of problems with the delivery of maas, vegetables and fruit.

“The council also noted that in many schools, pupils are not fed on the first and last days of each term. Our plea is for all those responsible for ensuring that pupils are fed daily, to take their work seriously and not compromise the health and nutrition of our pupils,” she said.

“The PGC has noted the challenges around the NSNP which sometimes leads to litigation with the department having to pay out, and as such resolved to call upon the department to decentralise every procurement for this programme to school governing bodies,” she said.

Caluza said they wanted the money for the programme to be sent to schools, adding that members of the governing body should handle the process of appointing a service provider.

“They will not be doing the cooking, just handling the service providers. With procurement happening at head office, members of the SGB end up not knowing what is happening at the schools. People who provide this service should come from the local community. This would stop things like someone from Dundee providing service in Ixopo as the governing body would not allow it,” she said.

She said governing bodies were well equipped to handle such tasks.

“They are already handling school finances.”

The union has also demanded clarity on the number of schools that would benefit from the project.

KZN Department of Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said service providers should not be supplying pupils with substandard food, adding they would not tolerate that from service providers.

“The idea behind the programme is to supply pupils with nutritious food, that means it must be healthy. If there are any service providers providing substandard food to pupils, we urge that they be reported to the department,” he said.

The Mercury