DBE accused of not having effectively deployed the nutrition program

Johannesburg – The Ministry of Basic Education will be taken to court again for allegedly failing to roll out the National School Nutrition Program (NSNP) for skilled learners for more than a year.

A statement from Equal Education (EE) and the School Governing Bodies (SGB) of two Limpopo schools, represented by SECTION27 and the Equal Education Law Center (EELC), claims that the latest report they received from DBE in March 2021, reports that around 1.5 million learners across the country were not receiving daily school meals.

But according to their own research recently conducted by SECTION27, out of 53 schools surveyed, 49% or 26 schools said that not all learners get meals on days they are not in school due to rotation schedules.

They say the situation was particularly bad in Limpopo, where 13 of 22 schools surveyed said learners do not get meals on the days they are at home.

“Of the 43 parents / guardians we asked if their children received NSNP meals on days they were not in school, 74% (32 parents / guardians) said their children did not. . Only 10 parents (23%) said their children did! It is clear that this is a problem in each of the provinces studied, with at least half of all parents / guardians in each province reporting that their children do not receive meals when they are at home ” , indicates the press release.

However, when asked which schools it was, Equal Education said the information was confidential.

They also said that the parents of the learners concerned declined to be interviewed.

“After contacting some of the parents and members of SGB, none feel comfortable talking to the press. They participated in the survey anonymously and no longer wanted to share these stories, ”said Julia Chaskalson, communications manager for SECTION27.

They said in the statement that they would seek a new court order stating that education officials have failed to meet their constitutional obligations to provide daily meals to all eligible learners, and have failed to fulfill the obligation to submit follow-up plans and reports, as ordered by Judge Poterill in July 2020.

“The MECs of Education and Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, should give the court reasons why they should not be fined or sent to jail for contempt of the court order. We are asking the court to order national and provincial departments of education to file new revised plans to deliver the NSNP, which take into account the ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19.

We ask the court to order that these new plans be filed within one month and that education departments file monthly updates on the implementation of the new solutions with the court until the court says they can stop doing it.

In July 2020, the South African High Court (Gauteng Division) ordered Minister Motshekga and MECs of Education from eight provinces to deploy the NSNP to all eligible learners, that learners be physically returned to the school or not.

“Yet a year later, education officials have failed to develop practical or realistic plans for the NSNP that respond to the new realities of schooling during COVID-19, and many vulnerable learners are missing meals school daily. Many provincial education departments have also stopped submitting the monitoring reports that the court ordered them to compile. Having tried to resolve these issues directly with the national and provincial departments of education through letters and submissions, we are now going back to the courts to demand that they comply with the court order of June 2020.

“The July 2020 court order reiterates that the rights of learners to basic nutrition, equality and dignity are interconnected, unreservedly and must be realized immediately. The currently inconsistent and incomplete deployment of the NSNP violates these rights. We have requested an urgent hearing date during this month. “

Basic Education Ministry spokesman Elijah Mhlanga said they had received documents and were processing them.

“The Department will make its position on this issue known shortly. The legal team is currently preparing a response. We will comment once the ministry’s position has been finalized, ”he said.

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Somaya Stockenstroom

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