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Equal Education At Loggerheads With DBE Over Roll-out Of School Feeding Scheme To 9 Million Learners

NYAKALLO TEFU

THE reopening of schools this week is off to a chaotic start following complaints that Department of Basic Education has not fully implemented the national school nutrition programme.

According to Equal Education, DBE has, through social media and news interviews, created the false narrative that the NSNP is being diligently and effectively rolled out.

The Equal Education says some provinces claim that all learners are able to get food but their plans do not have information to back up their claims.

In July, the high court ordered that plans to guide the full roll out of the NSNP must be filed with it by Friday 31 July, by both the Education MECs and Minister Angie Motshekga.

However, the provincial MECs failed to meet that deadline.

Equal Education said it has written to Motshekga to raise issues with the implementation of the feeding scheme.

“We are angry that school communities continue to report to us that food is still not being provided to every school and every learner,” said Equal Education.

“We will continue to monitor the situation on the ground and evaluate the implementation plans for the resumption of the NSNP from the Minister and MECs. We remind Minister Motshekga and the Education MECs, that as our counsel Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC said, nothing is more undignified than starvation. And as the judgment says, hunger is an issue of justice.”

Director-General said in an affidavit last week that the feeding scheme is ready to implement on a full scale but due to fears of Covid-19, many parents did not allow learners to collect the meals.

Mweli also mentioned that long distances from schools also prevented pupils from coming to school to collect the meals and this affected the number of pupils benefiting from the programme.

The court declared that Motshekga was under a legal duty to ensure that the NSNP provides a daily meal to all qualifying pupils, whether they are attending school or not.

In his report to the court and to Equal Education and two schools which brought the application — dated August 7 — Mweli said provinces were required to submit statistics on pupils who are receiving meals from July 20.

KwaZulu-Natal did not specify the actual number of pupils fed but reflected the distribution of meals.

The province said it distributed 2.3 million meals during that period.

Last Friday, the KZN education department said by the end of 2020 more than 300 schools will have new mobile kitchens.

The department said R50 million has been set aside to procure 300 mobile kitchens to ensure that food for pupils is prepared in a safe and hygienic place.

MEC of Education Kwazi Mshengu said the funds for the mobile kitchen are taken from savings from the National School Nutrition Programme.

Gauteng has mentioned that 117,849 pupils received meals and no challenges were reported.

In Mpumalanga, 700,586 pupils received meals.

The province noted that not all pupils came for feeding or collection of pre-packed food parcels.

Northern Cape recorded 17,028 pupils receiving meals, but the data was only for August 5.

The Free State recorded 22,153 pupils receiving meals.

Equal Education said the plans of the Education MECs are full of holes – with very important information completely missing or with extremely limited information on the number of learners currently receiving school meals (including those learners at home), ways of communicating with learners and their families about collecting cooked meals or food parcels, providing transport for learners who live far from their closest school, and how provinces are  monitoring that all qualifying learners receive meals.

Equal Education said some provinces claim that all learners are able to get food but their plans do not have information to back up their claims.

In addition, some provinces do not say anything at all about the number of learners whose nutritional needs they are meeting.

“School communities are telling us that the quality of some of the food parcels being provided is shocking,” said Equal Education.

“They do not contain all the necessary food groups (starch, protein and fruit or vegetables) and cannot then be considered nutritious. It is the duty of each Education MEC to implement the NSNP in such a manner that it provides a nutritious daily meal.”

(COMPILED BY INSIDE EDUCATION STAFF)

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