Health News

A possible second-wave of Covid-19 infections will not disrupt school nutrition programme, says education department

School meals. School Nutrition Programme Resumption
. File Photo
Written by Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

The Department of Basic Education is ensuring learners and their guardians that the National School Nutrition Programme will not be disrupted if Covid-19 infections rise. Civil society organisations say that the programme is still dogged by challenges, in part due to staggered timetables.

A possible second wave of Covid-19 infections will not disrupt the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP), education officials say. This promise comes despite the ongoing challenges to resuming the national school feeding scheme.

The Department of Basic Education (DBE) says all deserving learners will continue receiving their meals. It follows a court order compelling the government to continue the much-needed NSNP throughout the Covid-19 emergency measures.

“With concerns raised in anticipated second wave of infections, the department is resolute that all eligible learners will receive or collect meals in line with the risk adjusted school calendar, taking into account the Covid-19 protocols and measures,” DBE Director General of Mathanzima Mweli said in a statement.

Monitoring the current rollout

Civil organisations monitoring the implementation of the NSNP urged the government to ensure that learners who cannot access scholar transport to fetch meals get their meals. With staggered timetables to ensure social distancing and hygiene, some learners are missing out on meals when they are not in the classroom.

Equal Education (EE), Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) and Section27 say their surveys continue to show that  learners are still missing meals due to the rotational timetables used to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

“We have recommended to the DBE that food parcels or food vouchers be given to learners but also that education departments and schools keep telling learners and parents/caregivers that food can be collected at the schools closest to where they live,” the groups said in a joint statement released on Tuesday.

A survey of Equalisers, learner members of Equal Education, conducted in mid-October across five provinces, affirms that learners are receiving meals while at school. Civil organisations remain concerned, however.

The majority of the 192 Equalisers surveyed said they are attending school only on certain days, and 94% of them said they do not get meals when they are not at school. A further 79 of the 192 learners said they need transport to get to school to collect their meal. Only two of these surveyed learners actually had access to transport.

Poor communication prevails

The survey also showed that 52% of surveyed learners in the Western Cape, 22% in Mpumalanga and 18% in the Free State did not receive their meals. Authorities had no explanation for this, the civil society organisations said.

When learners not in class arrive to pick up their meals, it’s not clear where they should wait, how long they need to be at school or how they are expected to go home.

The civil society groups have written to DBE minister Angie Motshekga to highlight their concerns.

“Our letter asks for an explanation from each province for the decision to provide hot meals at school, which needs learners to take scholar transport every day, instead of distributing food parcels for learners who are at home,” say the organisations.

The letter also asks whether the department has considered a food voucher system for learners when they are not in school. The organisations have also asked provinces to issue circulars to all schools to ensure that learners and their guardians know they may collect meals, even if they are not scheduled to attend school. —Health-e News

About the author

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

Ndivhuwo Mukwevho is citizen journalist who is based in the Vhembe District of Limpopo province. He joined OurHealth in 2015 and his interests lie in investigative journalism and reporting the untold stories of disadvantaged rural communities. Ndivhuwo holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies from the University of Venda and he is currently a registered student with UNISA.