Thousands of learners in the Eastern Cape have relied on the School Nutrition Programme (SNP) for, in many cases, what has been the only meal they receive in a day.
In extraordinary times, we need to take extra ordinary action to ensure that parents are able to feed their children, as opposed to listening to their cries of hunger.
Since the closure of schools amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of learners have not had the opportunity to receive a meal through the SNP programme. The proposed phased return approach for the reopening of schools now means that many of these children could still be months away from receiving food through the SNP.
The Department of Social Development has distributed food parcels to household in need, there is simply not enough funding available to meet the current needs.
Schools have, however, received their budgets for the SNP and some schools have already bought supplies to feed learners. It is crucial that these funds and supplies are utilised to continue to feed learners.
I have therefore called on the MEC of Education, Fundile Gade, to collaborate with the Department of Social Development, and consider reallocating a portion of the SNP budget to provide nutritional supplies to parents, so that they can prepare food at home.
In the Western Cape, the school nutrition programme was opened early in April and allowed learners to receive food from the school directly, while principals, teachers and volunteers ensured all regulations such as social distancing and PPE were adhered to. Along with the food, soap, water and sanitiser was also supplied.
Because of the vast geographical landscape of the Eastern Cape and with the province having many outlying schools where learners reside a significant distance from the school, the departments of Education, Social Development and Roads and Transport could collaborate to make use of scholar transport contracts to effect the delivery of food to deserving learners on a weekly basis.
A similar programme was recently launched by the Department of Social Development in Gauteng, called Batho Pele (People First).
Using the same logistics, the Education Department could look at having workbooks and study material delivered to learners who do not have access to the internet, so that these learners can continue their education while our country fights the COVID-19 pandemic.
In times of uncertainty, it is the responsibility of the government to stand and be extraordinary. The residents in the Eastern Cape are dependent on this.