Over nine million learners from South African schools who are beneficiaries of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP), will begin receiving daily healthy meals –whether back at school or not. This comes after a court order handed by Judge Sulet Potterill, Acting Deputy Judge of the North Gauteng High Court.
Equal Education, alongside the governing bodies of Vhulaudzi Secondary School and Mashao High School in Limpopo launched an application against the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, and her eight MECs, demanding the urgent resumptions of the NSNP to all eligible learners. Section27’s Law Centre also helped with the application.
‘We are grateful’
Millions of learners – who are yet to return to classes after schools were forced to close in March due to Covid-19 – have not been receiving their meals from NSNP. Last week Friday Potterill ruled in a declaratory order that Motshekga and the eight education MECs were in breach of their constitutional duties for failing to roll out the NSNP to all eligible leaners, whether back at school or at home.
“Hunger is not a good thing. I am pleased about the news of the judgement that has come to pass, and I know that parents are also going to be pleased. It’s good that children will now be able to eat. They are grateful, we are grateful,” says Azwinndini Davhula, chairperson of Vhulaudzi Secondary’s school governing body.
According to Statistics South Africa, in 2015 Limpopo benefited the most from the NSNP, with the programme assisting 94,1% of learners in the province. In its report on schooling in Limpopo, Stats SA lists the school feeding programme as a likely factor that contributed to the rapid fall of hunger rate in Limpopo.
Waiting for communication
Spokesperson for Limpopo’s education department, Tidimalo Chuene, says that they started rolling out meals to all learners, including those who are yet to report back to classes from the beginning of the month. But several schools within the Vhembe District had not yet began with the meal resumptions prior to the court judgement.
According to the department’s latest revised annual performance plan, the NSNP was planned to provide nutritious meal to 1 589 403 learners from 3 796 public secondary and primary, as well as special schools.
Chairperson of Mabila Primary school governing body, Ndiafhi Tshililo, says that they are yet to receive any communications from the education department regarding extending school nutrition programme to learners who are not yet back to classes.
“We are not aware that all learners were supposed to have been receiving meals from the school despite not yet back to classes. It is something which we gladly welcome as the school nutrition meals comes very hand for learners who come from less fortunate families,” says Tshililo.
She further says: “For some of the children in the community the school nutrition meal is very important as it guarantees them a healthy meal, which is something they do not get often at their respective homes. Those who are already back to classes are receiving their daily meals, but we will wait for conformation from the department regarding the rest of the learners.”
But Matanga Matamela, director of special projects at the provincial education department says that from 1 July, schools have been offering NSNP meals to all eligible learners, even those who are yet to report back for classes.
“As far as we are aware, all our schools received enough food to cater for each and every eligible learner in the province. We are saddened to hear that they are schools which are yet to begin offering food to all learners. A circular was sent out to all schools regarding the resumption of school nutrition program to all learners and as the 1st of July 2020 all learners were supposed to have began receiving meals from the program,” says Matamela.
As part of the judgment, Potterill also handed down a supervisory interdict requiring the department of basic education and provincial education to file plans for the resumption of the NSNP to all qualifying learners within 10 working days.
Ntovhedzeni Begwa, whose daughter is a Grade 6 learner at Dzivhani Primary School, outside Thohoyandou, says that the NSNP plays a huge role in addressing hunger issues.
“When I know that my daughter will be receiving a healthy meal, which sometimes includes fruits and vegetables, it makes me happy as I know that I will only have to worry about what she will eat for dinner since her lunch will be sorted at school,” says Begwa.
The unemployed mother of three further says: “I heard that soon all learners will be receiving their meals again. If it is true, I am sure that will be a welcome relief to many parents, especially those who lost their jobs and income during the lockdown”.
In a joint media statement Equal Education and Section27 together with the two school governing bodies expressed their gratefulness to the judgement by Potterill.
“Today the work begins of monitoring the order of the North Gauteng High Court in our school meals case is realized – that’s the rights of over nine million NSNP for a daily meal are indeed fulfilled by government, without delay,” reads the statement. –Health-e News.