SCHOOL PUPILS relying on the National School Nutrition Programme will start to receive their daily rations as from June 1 onwards. The civil society organizations, Section 27, Equal Education and Equal Education Law Centre, issued a joint statement this week saying after engagements with education stakeholders, Department of Basic Education has confirmed that the school nutrition programme would be implemented as Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners return to school next week.
South Africa has more than 9.6 million school learners who rely on the school feeding schemes, but since the lockdown was announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in March, most have been going to bed on empty stomachs.
According to the latest figures, the cost of a nutrition programme per annum costs the government an estimated R1.4 billion. It involves more than 5 250 schools and over 9 million learners.
The National School Nutrition Programme is a national policy which seeks to promote healthy eating habits and healthy lifestyles among learners. Several research and studies conducted by the Department of Basic Education and other organisations has highlighted the benefits of providing meals to children at school.
Some of the benefits include reduced levels of absenteeism and increased learner participation in school work.
In a joint statement by the organizations, provincial education departments would be responsible for developing the appropriate mechanisms for collection or delivery of meals and food parcels to learners.
The NGOs have called on the department to make all provincial plans publicly available on the DBE’s website, and for national and provincial legislatures to maintain effective oversight.
Schools across the country are currently preparing for the return of learners on June 8 in a phased approach, where only Grade 7 and Grade 12 learners will go back during alert Level 3.
EE Law Centre Media and Communications Coordinator, Tad Khosa said they are waiting for communication from the department as to how this will be rolled out.
The Western Cape Education Department has agreed to continue with its feeding programme as it did throughout the different lockdown levels.
Earlier this month, Inside Education reported that over 1 million meals have been served to vulnerable and poor children by the Western Cape Education Department as part of its emergency school feeding programme.
The programme came into effect after government shut down all national feeding schemes following the nationwide lockdown.
“While EE, EELC and SECTION27 welcome the DBE’s commitment, monitoring of provincial plans will be crucial to ensuring that the DBE’s commitment and constitutional obligations are fulfilled”, said the organizations.
The NSNP is run by the Department of Basic Education (DBE), working in partnership with other government departments, namely the Departments of Health (DoH) and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). Private companies also assist with the breakfast programme, namely Tiger Brands Foundation (TBF), Pioneer Foods and Economic Development Solutions (EDS).
(Compiled by Inside Education staff)