Thousands of Eastern Cape learners go hungry as school nutrition programme fails

Issued by Yusuf Cassim, MPL
Shadow MEC for Education

Thousands of learners across the Eastern Cape, waiting to be phased back into classes have gone hungry, as the School Nutrition Programme (SNP) in the province has failed to provide them with meals.

In a report to the Education Portfolio Committee last week (6 August 2020), the Department of Education revealed that only 3,25% of learners had received meals from the SNP during lockdown.

This despite the High Court in Pretoria ordering the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to resume the National School Nutrition Programme to all eligible pupils with immediate effect, regardless of whether they were back in class.

The failure of the Department to provide meals is simply unacceptable, as for many of these children, the meal they received at school is often the only meal they get.

MEC Fundile Gade and his Department have failed these learners, and it is for this reason that I have nowreported them to the Human Rights Commission.

In the presentation, the Department said they had ensured that all learners were being fed during the COVID-19 period and that funds had been disbursed to schools to ensure that learners, including those not yet phased in, were fed.

However, on the same page, the Department confirms that, of the 1 359 464 learners still to return to school, only 51 604 (3,25%) had been fed.

This is in stark contrast to the Western Cape, which was the only province to continue its School Nutrition Programme, from the onset of the lockdown.

In two letters sent to MEC Gade, on 24 March 2020 and 22 April 2020, I raised my concerns around the thousands of learners who will not receive any meals from the SNP. To date, the MEC has not responded, or even acknowledged receipt of my letter.

It is the responsibility of the Department to ensure that all learners receive the services that it offers, which includes the distribution of food to learners under the SNP.

It is time for the Department to practice what they preach and put the learners of the Eastern Cape as its first priority.