Schools open

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga briefs media on release of findings of 2017 School Monitoring Survey / Image via GCIS

‘Education Department must feed children’, rules court

Judge Sunet Potterill said pupils were entitled to the daily meal and the minister and MECs had failed to justify why the programme had not been reinstated during lockdown

Schools open

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga briefs media on release of findings of 2017 School Monitoring Survey / Image via GCIS

The High Court in Pretoria has ordered the Department of Basic Education to immediately roll out the National Schools Nutrition Programme (NSNP) to all nine million qualifying pupils. 

Presiding Judge Sulet Potterill found that Minister Angie Motshekga and education MECs were in violation of the constitution by not continuing with the feeding scheme, even after the country went under lockdown and schools had to close. 

Equal  Education had approached the court, seeking a declaratory order that would obligate  government to ensure that all learners who qualify to benefit from the NSP must continue to receive these meals, regardless of whether their grades returned to schools on 8 June. 

“I am satisfied that declaratory relief must be granted in this matter because the dispute as to whether the Minister and MEC’s have a constitutional duty requires same. If a constitutional or statutory duty has been found to exist, then the noncompliance with that duty also needs to be declared”, Potterill said. 

“The applicants have proved that a right in the Bill of Rights has been infringed. In terms of sections 172 and 38 of the Constitution This Court must this grant relief that is just and equitable or appropriate” 

The NSNP provides meals to more than nine million children. 

The advocacy group said the department does not dispute that there is funding available, and that it is practically possible to safely provide meals to learners who have not yet returned to school. 

‘The feeding scheme must be saluted’ 

Potterill further took aim at Motshekga and her department for their defence, which was that since schools had closed due to the pandemic in March and the NSNP had stopped and that they had not refused to reinstate it. 

“The court is not blinded by word choice, but looks to context and the totality of the evidence presented. The order sought is in line with the factual basis set out: The NSNP has not been rolled out to all learners, it must be rolled and should have been rolled out when schools were opened,” she said. 

“The programme is a life-saving programme for the poorest of the poor child. It must be saluted” 

“While there have been grant reforms (since the pandemic), they have failed to alleviate the plight of millions of people. The affidavits from teachers, learners and parents capture the reality on the ground. They make it clear that hunger is not a problem, hunger is an obscenity.”