Millions of learners not receiving meals – claim
Pretoria - The Department of Basic Education has rubbished allegations that it was slacking on reporting on the National School Nutrition Programme while 1.5 million learners were still not receiving meals.
NPO Equal Education admonished the department for its failure to keep track of the school feeding programme to the extent that some provincial education departments were allegedly repeatedly failing to report on whether they were effectively rolling out the food schemes.
The organisation said this was disappointing given that it had been up to nine months since the court order mandating the departments provide school meals regardless of whether learners were in classrooms or at home.
In essence, it said with no reports, the departments effectively had no idea whether learners were receiving meals or not. As a result, the organisation, alongside Equal Education Law Centre and advocacy group Section 27, said they, too, had been unable to monitor the roll-out of the meals to 9 million learners across the country.
Leanne Jansen-Thomas, spokesperson for Equal Education, said to date the organisation had received the last round of monitoring reports from Minister Angie Motshekga and the department, as well as MECs of KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga after the court deadline of March 19.
She said the reports from the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng and Limpopo were not submitted at all.
Even worse, Jansen-Thomas said, the department and provincial counterparts had not submitted the most recent round of monitoring reports, which were due on April 14.
“The report submitted by director-general Mathamzima Mweli shows that at least 1.5 million learners were still not receiving the meals. This shows that the programme has still not reached 100% of all learners who qualify for school meals.”
“This is unbelievable and terrible neglect of responsibility that allows children to go hungry. This is an ongoing violation of children’s rights, and barriers to learners getting the school meals they are entitled to must be fixed urgently.”
Departmental spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga, however, said as far as they knew all of the reports from the various departments were available.
He said the 1.5 million learners being referred to were those who never returned to schools as a result of Covid-19, as the forced closure of schools, loss of jobs and changes in family circumstances had in some instances resulted in people deciding to move their children elsewhere.
Mhlanga said the food programme was in full swing, even under the current circumstances where learners were not attending school.