17 July 2020

Joint media advisory: Victory for Equal Education, Limpopo school governing bodies and over nine million learners as court rules that government’s National School Nutrition Programme must immediately resume for all learners! 

 

#SchoolMealsNow #9MillionMeals #FamiliesNeedNSNP

Today, Acting Deputy Judge President of the North Gauteng High Court, Judge Sulet Potterill delivered judgment in the Equal Education and others v. the Department of Basic Education and others case, regarding the National Schools Nutrition Programme (NSNP). The court handed down both a declaratory and supervisory order, ordering the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to roll out the NSNP to all eligible children without delay – regardless of whether learners have returned to school.

 

Equal Education and the two Limpopo school governing bodies were represented by Equal Education Law Centre and SECTION27, and counsel Geoff Budlender SC, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi SC and Thabang Pooe. We celebrate this victory for the over nine million learners in South Africa who depend on the NSNP for a nutritious meal every day, and for the many learners and caregivers who put their testimonies before the court. 

 

In an important piece of jurisprudence, the court granted a declaratory order, reiterating the constitutional and statutory duty of the DBE and the provincial education departments to fulfil learners’ constitutional rights to basic nutrition and basic education by delivering the NSNP. 

 

The judgment also, in a supervisory interdict, orders Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and the Education MECs of eight provinces to file detailed plans and programmes for the resumption of the NSNP to all eligible learners within 10 days. Thereafter, the Minister and the MECs will be required to file updates with the court every 15 days to prove that the plans to provide meals to learners are actually being implemented.

 

The NSNP was suspended when schools shut down in March, and since that time the DBE has failed to honour the promises it made to reinstate the programme and to ensure learners would not go hungry. In her judgment, Judge Poterrill reflected on the centrality of basic nutrition and the violation of learners’ rights in this regard:

“Children are categorically vulnerable, poor hungry children are exceptionally vulnerable. The degree of the violation of the constitutional rights are thus egregious.”

 

We welcome the judgment for its recognition that the constitutional rights to basic nutrition and basic education are interdependent, and celebrate this as a victory not only for over nine million learners, but for the millions of households whose food security has been gravely compromised due to the Covid-19 necessitated lockdown. For learners to receive meals at school will ease the strain on caregivers – many of whom have lost their income and are struggling to put food on the table. 

 

We look forward to examining the plans put forward by the DBE and provincial education departments for the full resumption of the NSNP, as well as the progress reports, to ensure that the rights of learners to basic nutrition, basic education and equality are upheld.

 

We will be releasing a further detailed media statement on Monday.

 

To arrange an interview, contact: 

Julia Chaskalson (SECTION27 Communications Officer) 083 440 2674 chaskalson@section27.org.za  

Leanne Jansen-Thomas (EE Head of Communications) 079 4949 411 leanne@equaleducation.org.za  

Tad Khosa (EE Law Centre Media and Communications Coordinator) 081 346 0180 tad@eelawcentre.org.za