Joint statement: Survey of Equalisers shows that most learners who are only in classrooms on certain days are not getting food for when they are at home

DBE reports show that nearly two million learners are still not receiving school meals

Equal Education (EE), Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) and SECTION27 are extremely worried that the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) is still not reaching learners on the days when they are at home, because of rotating timetables. The latest court-ordered progress report from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) also shows that nearly two million learners are not receiving food.

A survey of Equalisers (learner members of Equal Education) across five provinces, conducted in mid-September, shows that:

  • The majority of the Equalisers who participated in the survey (96 out of 125, or 76%) are currently attending school according to a rotating timetable (meaning that they only attend school on some days and remain at home on others);
  • Of the Equalisers who said they are only attending school on some days, 69 (71%) said they didn’t get a meal on the days when not at school;
  • About 98 of 125 Equalisers said their school does not provide transport for learners who stay far and need to collect food from school; and
  • 66 Equalisers (52.8%) said they know of other learners in their community who are not getting food from their schools on days when they are at home. 

Some of the findings of the survey of Equalisers, per province: 

  • Eastern Cape: Of the six Equalisers who said they are only in the classroom on some days, five don’t receive a meal on the days when not at school (83%). All nine Equalisers who participated in the survey said their school does not provide transport for learners to collect food at school.
  • Gauteng: 47 out of 62 Equalisers (75%) only attend school on some days, and 31 of these 47 Equalisers (75%) do not receive a meal on the days when not at school. 
  • KwaZulu-Natal: Nine out of 11 Equalisers are only attending school on some days, and said they do not receive a meal on days when not at school (81%). Some learners said there isn’t scholar transport to collect meals.
  • Limpopo: 13 out of the 15 Equalisers who participated in the survey are only attending school on some days. Of the 13, four (30%) said they don’t receive a meal on the days when not at school and nine collect a meal at school on the days when home. Six of the 15 Equalisers (40%) know of other learners in their communities who are not getting food from their schools on days when they are at home. 
  • Western Cape: 20 out of the 28 Equalisers are only attending school on some days, and 19 out of 20 (95%) do not receive a meal on days they don’t have to be at school. Eight of the 28 Equalisers (28%) know of learners in their communities who are not getting food from their schools on days when they are at home.

While the latest court-ordered progress reports are far clearer and more detailed than the reports that we received in July, SECTION27 and EELC have written to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and the Education MECs, to highlight problems with the reports. These challenges include:

  • That most provinces have not made plans to ensure that the right of learners to basic nutrition is upheld for all, including for learners who are at home because of the rotating timetables or who are not returning to school for medical reasons; 
  • A lack of clarity and consistency in the reporting on figures of learners accessing meals. Including the absence of a break down of the  figures that explains how many learners access food at school and how many receive meals or food parcels when they are at home; 
  • The urgent need for a clear and reliable plan for transport for learners to collect meals; and 
  • The Free State Education Department did not provide a progress report at all.

Our letter also asks whether a plan exists to ensure that the NSNP continues to be rolled out, should South Africa experience a second wave of Covid-19 infections. Although there has been continued improvement in the uptake of school meals, it is likely that a rotating timetable system will be needed for some time to come, it is important that the government makes sure that meals are reaching learners if they are not at school on a particular day because of physical distancing. 

The education departments must fully and urgently apply themselves to ensuring that the right of learners to basic nutrition is upheld – anything less is unacceptable when the consequences are so devastating for learners and their families.

[END]

Note: Please quote Equal Education, Equal Education Law Centre and SECTION27. 

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Our letter to the DBE and provinces: