Last updated on Jun 22nd, 2021 at 05:30 pm

“It’s a struggle for me and my family as we don’t have enough food to sustain us throughout the lockdown, even for a single month because we depend on one source of income (my father). That makes it worse during this lockdown, we spend most of our time indoors. In all, it’s physically exhausting and emotionally draining to stay in hunger most of the time, because we also can’t get any food parcels.”
– Eastern Cape Equaliser (learner member of Equal Education), May 2020

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In a joint statement, several organisations have called on Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga to resume the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) as soon as possible…

“Equal Education (EE), Equal Education Law Centre (EELC), and SECTION27 are bitterly disappointed and angry that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has failed to provide clear plans for resuming the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP),” said the statement.

After the government postponed the opening of schools to 15 February, no plans were made to help ensure that the children who were forced to stay home would get a nutritious meal. For some South African children, their only substantial meal of the day comes from the school nutrition programme.

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“We strongly believe this goes against a

commitment the DBE made in October 2020, to ensure learners receive meals during a second wave of COVID-19 infections,” said the statement.

“To provide school meals only when classrooms reopen on 15 February also goes against the spirit of the

court order which we won in July 2020, which confirmed that the DBE must provide meals for learners even then they do not attend school.”

Food meant for the NSNP being sold in stores

On 21 January this year, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said an individual had been arrested after it was found that canned pilchards specifically packaged for use in the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) were being sold in a shop in Retreat.

“The cans clearly state that they are packaged specifically for use in the NSNP, and are not for resale. They are exclusively for use in our schools, and can only have ended up in the shop by criminal means. We immediately reported this to SAPS,” said Schäfer.

“I hope this serves as a warning to those who would steal from our schools. The NSNP is a vital lifeline for our most vulnerable learners. To steal NSNP food is to steal directly from the mouths of children, and it will not be tolerated.”

No guaranteed meal since December 15

Since school holidays began on December 15, children have been without a guaranteed meal.

“Nutrition – alongside school infrastructure, textbooks and scholar transport – is a central part of the right to basic education,” said the organisations.

No word from government on when the programme would resume

Despite the DBE saying that the nutrition programme would resume for all learners on 27 January, there has been no word on the implementation since the school opening date was delayed.

“It is extremely disturbing that Eastern Cape Education MEC Fundile Gade has said publicly that school meals will only be provided when learners are back in school,” said the organisations.

“We are deeply worried that the DBE’s silence on providing school meals means that the NSNP is not enough of a priority for government, and will mean that hunger among learners who qualify for the NSNP will continue.”

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