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Classroom confusion: Parents in the dark over school feeding scheme, while unions contest start of school year

Confusion about school nutrition programmes and restarting education
Written by Ndivhuwo Mukwevho

On-again, off-again school nutrition programme set to restart by end January but governing bodies are in the dark.

The Department of Education is set to resume the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) in the last week of January 2021, even if learners are not yet back in class.

Yet, a member of the National Association of School Governing Bodies representatives  in Limpopo says the plan has not been communicated to them—a sign of the miscommunication that has plagued the implementation of the feeding scheme.

Last year, as schools closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, a judge ordered the Department of Basic Education to reinstate the NSNP to all deserving learners, whether back at school or not. The programme has over nine-million beneficiaries countrywide who depend on the programme for healthy meals daily.

Provincial plan

The Provincial Department of Education said that all public schools in Limpopo will start distributing meals to all NSNP beneficiaries from 27 January. Schools will distribute food hampers valued at R273.00 per learner.

“The hampers should include all specified menu items, delivered in their original form and packaging. Schools that participate in the nutrition programme using decentralised model will directly procure foodstuff for their learners,” said Tidimalo Chuene, the departmental spokesperson.

Schools must communicate directly parents and caregivers about collecting the food hampers. Children relying on school transport must also be ferried to and from pick-up points.

“Schools were further directed to develop workable mechanisms of distributing hampers within the guidelines of the adopted standard operating procedure for the prevention, containment and management of Covid-19 in schools. These require schools to adequately take into consideration aspects of wearing of masks, social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing of frequently touched surfaces,” said Chuene.

Left in the dark

But Limpopo Secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, Prince Phandavhudzi, told Health-e News neither the association nor parents have been informed about the developments and remain in the dark.

“No one from the department of education has said or is saying anything to us and we do not know anything about their plans to resume with NSNP,” said Phandavhudzi.

In addition to the confusion about the feeding scheme, parents are also worried about the state of school infrastructure when children do return. Public school learners across the country are set to return to the classroom on 15 February, while teachers must return on 1 February.

“Despite not being informed about NSNP, we remain concerned about the state of our schools in Limpopo as the conditions remain the same,” Phandavhudzi. “Most of our schools are still without proper toilets, water and proper classrooms despite being in the middle of the pandemic which needs one to practice proper hygiene all the times.”

Still, learners have already missed weeks of school, and parents and children cannot afford to keep them home much longer,” added Phandavhudzi.

School schedule

In a government gazette notice published on 22 January 2021, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga laid out the new year schedule. Principals, school management teams and non-teaching staff were expected back at schools by the 25 January while all teachers must return 1 February. Learners must be back in the classroom 15 February.

However, teachers’ union SADTU is contesting the schedule. They want all staff and learners to return on 15 February claiming they were not consulted in the decision and remain concerned about exposure to the Covid-19 pandemic.

You can click here to download a copy of the gazette.— 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.