13 April 2020
Open letter to Minister of Basic Education: Minister Motshekga, school feeding schemes can and must continue! On behalf of Equal Education, the Equal Education Law Centre, Section27, the Centre for Child Law, and the Children’s Institute.
Dear Minister Motshekga
As education and children’s rights organisations and activists, we recognise the exceptionally difficult task that confronts government at this time. South Africa faces an unprecedented national crisis with every sector of society profoundly impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
Given the rapid pace of developments since President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster, we acknowledge that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has sought to introduce interventions aimed at mitigating the effects of school closure on learners, teachers and caregivers.
As we enter the third week of a national lockdown, and with the President announcing the extension of the lockdown until the end of April, a pressing need is ensuring that learners have continued access to critical nutrition provisioning. Nine million children ordinarily benefit from the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP). For many of these learners, the meal received at schools is often the only meal received for the day.
In light of the crucial role school meals play in the wellbeing and development of children, your initial response to concerns around access to meals was disappointing. Commenting on the capacity of the DBE to run feeding programmes, you have been quoted as saying that:
“…we [the DBE] are not going to do anything different outside of what we normally do; we are not going to have special programmes; we are not going to run feeding schemes. We have accessed our capacity and we will not be able to do it.”
Respectfully, this is not a tenable position. Hunger and malnutrition are serious concerns, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, as both result in compromised levels of immunity.
It is therefore necessary to put in place clear and coordinated interventions which ensure that children continue to receive the benefit of school meals. The DBE must play a central role in this and cannot defer its responsibilities to other departments indefinitely.
Read the open letter in full, click here.