Police arrest four employees at Vuyiseka High School who are accused of stealing food from the school’s feeding scheme.
Cape Town - The food provided to poorer schools in the Western Cape has become a target for thieves, with groceries meant for the mouths of hungry children being resold to tuck shops.

In the most recent incident, four employees at a Philippi-East school were arrested for stealing food from the school’s feeding scheme.

The suspects were detained at the Vuyiseka High School on Monday after they were found with stolen groceries valued at R3 000.

The employees are alleged to have stolen food parcels from the scheme for months before they were caught by the school principal.

Philippi-East Police confirmed they were called to the school to investigate and arrested four employees, saying they were between 40 and 50 years old .

“An investigation conducted indicated they were stealing school food and groceries to an estimated value of R3 000 was found in their possession.

Police opened a possession of suspected stolen property case,” said police spokesman, Lieutenant Bheki Xulu.

The group have since appeared at the Philippi-East Magistrate’s Court.

Community leader, Nomaseko Vuthula said: “It really saddens me when we have grown men and women who steal from children to enrich themselves.”

“Last year we had an incident where two other women from another school here were discovered to be stealing food when a packet of salt fell out from under the skirt of the one woman when she was walking past the staff room.

“Bigger items like your bag of mealie-meal and rice often get sold to the tuckshops around here and nothing ever happens to these people, so I am glad finally some of them have been arrested. Maybe this will serve as a warning for others,” Vuthula said.

Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, said people found to be involved in such incidents of theft are dismissed immediately.

She also said that it was unacceptable that people would steal food right out of the mouths of the 945 pupils who attend Vuyiseka High School.

“Over the past year, three separate incidents of theft have been reported.

“Another three incidents have been reported where the feeding scheme kitchens have been targeted by burglars,” she said.

“The school feeding scheme does not only provide more nutrition for our learners, but encourages the learners to arrive early for school and stay in school. It allows children to focus on their studies rather than their stomachs and helps to increase school enrolment and attendance, decrease drop-out rates and improve cognitive abilities.”

Last month, another group was arrested in Khayelitsha for allegedly stealing R15 000 worth of food from the Isiphiwo Primary School in Harare.

The group were arrested following a tip-off where police found the stolen goods at the houses of the different suspects.

Shelver added that the department ensures that just close to 480 000 of the poorest pupils receive two meals across 1 010 schools daily.

“This programme has expanded year on year, with allocations to the nutrition scheme having more than doubled since 2009/2010. This year is no different. The amount allocated to the feeding programme for the 2017/2018 financial year is just over R337 million, an increase of more than R20million compared to last year.”

Weekend Argus