(By Bernard Chiguvare)

For some learners in Limpopo, transport to collect food at school cost more than the meal itself.

“Parents feel it is not economical to pay R20 to collect food from school. They prefer using the R20 to buy food rather than using it for transport,” said Francis Maluleke, school governing body chairperson at Rantshu Primary school in Mashashane.

When GroundUp visited, two volunteers who prepare meals for those at school were cleaning plates and large pots in a makeshift kitchen after the 10am breaktime. They explained that meals differ from day-to-day and include vegetables, rice, porridge, pumpkins and samp. The Department of Education provides a food budget of R3.10 per learner per day for primary schools and R3.59 for secondary school learners.

At least 40 of the school’s 211 learners did not receive meals regularly

Maluleke said at least 40 of the school’s 211 learners did not receive meals regularly as some lived as far as eight kilometres from the school. He said they had been asking for scholar transport so that learners who live far away can also benefit from the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).

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Last month the court ordered Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to roll out the school feeding scheme for about nine million learners immediately, whether or not they are attending school.

Hopolang Selebalo, Co-Head of Research at Equal Education said that it was the responsibility of provincial education departments to ensure that all eligible learners are able to collect hot meals or food parcels.

“The order of the North Gauteng High Court compels it to fulfil this responsibility. In papers filed with the court, the Limpopo Education Department committed to provide transport to learners so that they can receive meals from their schools.

“It is cruel to deny learners meals because the cost of travelling to school is more than the meal.”

In circumstances where schools are unable to provide learners with hot meals everyday, then weekly food parcels should be provided to them,” said Selebalo.

EE Law Centre attorney Sipho Mzakwe said: “In terms of the court order, the DBE is obligated to ensure that every qualifying learner is provided with a meal through the NSNP. If the provision of scholar transport is the only option that will ensure that learners who are at home also receive their meals, I will argue that the DBE has an obligation to provide scholar transport even to schools that are currently not the beneficiaries of scholar transport.”

Matamela Matanga, director of special projects at the provincial education department, promised to investigate whether learners at Rantshu are eligible for scholar transport. He told GroundUp that the school was currently not on its scholar transport list.


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