3 May 2023
Joint statement: Equal Education and Equal Education Law Centre call for urgent intervention to resolve the collapse of the National School Nutrition Programme in KwaZulu-Natal and restore learners’ access to food at school
“It is very difficult to focus in class when you are hungry as we are used to getting food at school. Many learners leave school before time because of starvation and some do not come to school at all. ” — Grade 12 Equal Education learner member, Ubongumenzi Secondary School, KwaZulu-Natal
Equal Education (EE) and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) are concerned that some schools in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) have not been receiving the school meals they are entitled to through the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP). The failure of the NSNP service provider, appointed by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education (KZNDoE), to adequately supply the necessary meals has meant that over 2 million learners in the province—who depend on this lifesaving pro-poor initiative—have been left to go hungry while at school. This is a gross violation of the learners’ constitutional right to nutrition.
In the landmark and hard-won victory secured by EE, the EELC, and SECTION27 in 2020, the High Court (Gauteng Division) affirmed the importance of nutrition to the enjoyment of the right to basic education. Since the NSNP feeds over nine million learners every day of the school year, its significance for vulnerable learners cannot be overstated. The NSNP has helped to improve learners’ punctuality, school attendance, focus, and overall well-being. Therefore, it is concerning to learn that some learners in KZN have been missing out on what may be their only meal of the day since the start of the second term.
Even though the rollout of the NSNP has not been perfect since the COVID-19 pandemic, the present hiccup in KZN is the most worrying. As the situation is being investigated, it is still unknown what is causing the province’s food supply to be interrupted. What is certain is that some caregivers are currently struggling to fill the gap left by learners’ inability to access this crucial social protection.
We therefore urge the department to act quickly to resolve the issue so that food delivery can resume to all qualifying learners. While we welcome the interim action taken by the KZNDoE to prevent learners in affected schools from going without food, the Department of Basic Education must move quickly with its investigation to guarantee it never occurs again. We will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the NSNP is fully restored.
To arrange for an interview, contact:
Jay-Dee Cyster (Communications Manager, Equal Education ) 082 924 1352 or firstname.lastname@example.org