9 September 2020
Joint statement: As the rollout of school meals continues to improve, education departments must ensure that learners who are only back in classrooms on certain days, or learners who have permission to stay home, are still able to get food
With learners in all grades now back at school, the rollout of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) is expected to reach more and more learners. Equal Education (EE), Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) and SECTION27 will continue to monitor whether the education departments are fulfilling their duty to uphold the right of learners to basic nutrition – including learners who are only in school on certain days because of a rotating timetable and learners who are allowed to stay home for medical or other reasons.
We are encouraged that the latest court-ordered progress reports from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and provincial education departments show that they did respond to our feedback on how to fix some of the obstacles with the rollout of meals, and show that there was improvement in the rollout of school meals before learners in all grades were back at school.
Some of the ways in which the education departments have responded to and implemented our recommendations:
- The DBE has updated NSNP monitoring tools and some provinces are developing electronic systems for reporting and monitoring information on the NSNP;
- The education departments developed communications plans so that learners and parents/caregivers would know that the NSNP had restarted;
- The DBE has committed to making an effort to make the public aware of its toll free ‘hotline’ number (0800 202 933), to report problems with the NSNP; and
- The KwaZulu-Natal Education Department committed to making scholar transport available for learners to collect meals and the Eastern Cape Education Department has committed to engaging the Eastern Cape Department of Transport on this issue.
SECTION27 and EELC wrote to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and the Education MECs this week to express that we welcome the improvements, and to ask that the next set of reports should include information on how they will ensure that learners who are only back in classrooms on certain days, or learners who have permission to stay home, are still able to get food.
However, getting accurate information on the number of learners receiving meals is still a challenge. The DBE and some provinces have expressed challenges with accurately capturing this data and some reports still contain contradictory and confusing information – in some cases it is unclear whether the data refers to all learners who are receiving meals, or only learners who are back at school, or only learners who are still at home. There is also inconsistency between the data in the court reports and the data that DBE Director General Mathanzima Mweli presented to Parliament on 1 September on the NSNP – according to this presentation nearly four million learners were getting food while at home.
Inconsistent and contradictory information makes it difficult to keep track of how many learners are in fact receiving their meals, whether they are at school or at home. We hope that, with the improvements being made to monitoring systems, from now on education departments will provide data that is clear and consistent.
Feedback to us from school communities shows that there has been improvement in the rollout of the NSNP but there are still some obstacles that prevent learners from benefiting from the NSNP if they are not at school for classes. Many learners will not be at school every day – either because of social distancing arrangements in school or for medical reasons. Because of this, it is critical that departments develop innovative ways to ensure that food reaches learners, which may include fixing problems with scholar transport, providing learners with take home meals for “off” days on the days when learners are in school, or delivering food to learners who are not at school.
- Last week, Equalisers (EE learner members) from a few schools in King William’s Town and one school in Keiskammahoek in the Eastern Cape said that learners only got meals when they were at school for classes, but that when their grades were told to remain at home because of the rotating school timetables necessary for physical distancing, they could not receive meals.
- In the last week of August, Equalisers from a few schools in Tembisa and in Daveyton in Gauteng, said that there wasn’t enough food for all learners at school and some were only given a fruit or didn’t get any food at all.
- In the last week of August, at one school in Sekhukhune in Limpopo, not enough food was delivered for all learners that should get meals and so only Grade 12s who were back at school were given meals.
- In the last week of August, we received reports from several schools across Vhembe, Mopani and Sekhukhune districts in Limpopo that only the matrics who were then back at school were receiving meals, and that the lack of scholar transport prevented learners in other grades from collecting their meals.
- In the last week of August, Equalisers in a small number of schools in Nquthu in northern KwaZulu-Natal, and in GaMashashane in Limpopo, said that they still weren’t receiving meals. Learners and caregivers from two schools in eThekwini district in KwaZulu-Natal said that only the Grade 12s who were back at school in mid-August were receiving meals, as most other learners didn’t have scholar transport and lived too far away from school to walk to collect their meals or food parcels.
We will continue to monitor the situation in school communities to ensure that all learners, including learners who have to remain at home, get the meals that they are entitled to.
Note: Please quote Equal Education, Equal Education Law Centre and SECTION27.
For further media comment or interviews, contact:
Julia Chaskalson (Communications Officer SECTION27) firstname.lastname@example.org or 083 440 2674
Jay-Dee Cyster (Communications Officer Equal Education) email@example.com or 082 924 1352
Tad Khosa (Media and Communications Coordinator Equal Education Law Centre) firstname.lastname@example.org or 081 346 0180