05Angela Day baby food. Picture: Steve Lawrence 140808

Members of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature’s portfolio committee on education believe that there is merit in the suggestion that funding for the National School Nutrition Programme be capped at R1.1 billion.

While the MPLs expressed sympathy for more than two million KZN pupils who are fed one hot meal a day through the scheme, they concurred that the provincial Education Department could not afford to dedicate further funds to a programme that was not its core mandate – providing quality teaching.

During a committee meeting on Friday, the MPLs requested that the department develop a discussion document on the matter following Education MEC Senzo Mchunu’s proposal that the funding be restricted.

The Mercury has reported Mchunu’s declaration that while he recognises the importance of the scheme, money is needed for classroom equipment and teacher training.

“If we have teachers who aren’t competent, it impacts on our core business. If we don’t have the necessary infrastructure, it has an impact… When should it be capped? When it reaches R2bn?” Mchunu asked.

Linda Naidoo, the head of Childline KZN, fiercely opposed the proposal, saying: “Children can’t see the value of education if they faint from hunger.”

At last week’s meeting, Mchunu told the MPLs that while the feeding scheme was commendable and no other department had dedicated R1.1bn to fighting poverty, he stood by his proposal.

Committee member KK Nkosi said that Mchunu’s proposal was a “good view”, but should not be immediately implemented.

Nkosi said that as a boy, the promise of food had motivated him to show up at school.

He cited the case of a high school he had visited in Ntuzuma, where enrolment had declined because of the absence of a feeding scheme.

Nkosi said when he asked pupils why other children had opted to leave, they said the others preferred to go to schools where they were fed.

He said the school was ranked as quintile four and so did not qualify for a feeding scheme, yet its pupils were “the poorest of the poor”.

Mchunu said he thought the school nutrition policy should be reviewed rather than scrapped. - The Mercury