Children eating in a school in South Africa

South African schoolchildren.

Equal Education wants answers from DBE over School Nutrition

The education lobby group say while the latest report is “more coherent” than previous ones, it lacks crucial information and also details on how the Department plans to address shortcomings.

Children eating in a school in South Africa

South African schoolchildren.

Equal Education (EE) and Section27, along with the governing bodies (GBs) of two Limpopo schools, are calling on Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to fill in the blanks in the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) progress report, saying the document lacks detail and is vague on how it plans to deal with challenges.

They have written to Angie Motshekga and MECs saying the last report filed by the DBE and provinces are not comprehensive enough on crucial aspects of the nutrition programme in some provinces.

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

Equal Education.

“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.”

In July, the Gauteng High Court ordered the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to roll out the programme to eligible children, whether or not they returned to school, and Motshekga was also ordered to update the court on the implemented plans every 15 days.

Missing data

For example, the two organisations say, the Eastern Cape report does not indicate the number of learners who are benefitting from the NSNP and does not indicate plans to ensure that all qualifying learners have access to meals.

They want Motshekga to outline how the DBE is gathering data on the number of meals actually collected by learners; asking for a nationwide communications strategy to inform learners and school communities that physical distancing protocols are in place; and that learners be informed that they can come to school to collect their meals safely, even if their grade has not returned to school yet.

Transport must also be made available for learners who live far from the nearest school to collect food as promised previously by several provinces, they added.

Furthermore, there is conflicting data obtained from government and feedback from learners and caregivers, the two organisations said.

They cite Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal who are reporting the number of meals made available by the government rather than the number of meals collected by learners.

No plan to address challenges and food not nutritious

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

“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.”

“The latest report by the DBE claims that the main problem with the rollout of the NSNP is that learners aren’t collecting meals or food parcels because of the recent temporary closure of schools, fears around physical distancing and the lack of scholar transport. 

“The report does not, however, offer any plans to address these challenges. We believe that this unfairly puts the responsibility for the failure to implement the NSNP on learners and families, rather than recognising that the safety measures taken by schools have not been communicated properly and that learners do not all know when and how they can collect school meals,” they said.

Equal Education and Section 27 have also asked that the provincial education departments provide them with business plans – due to be submitted to the DBE last week – that show that enough money is being put toward school meals.

“We will continue monitoring the delivery of food with schools throughout the country so that we have a sense of the uptake of the NSNP and any obstacles to the uptake, as well as how these problems are being fixed – or neglected – by the DBE,” the two organisations said.