3 November 2020
Joint media statement: New Equaliser survey shows there are still problems with getting food to learners who are at home on some days, but DBE promises school meals to learners who are at home if there is a second wave of COVID-19 infections
Equal Education (EE), Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) and SECTION27 are still urging the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to develop ways to get National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) meals to learners who cannot access scholar transport to fetch meals on the days when they are not in classrooms. We have recommended that food parcels or food vouchers be given to learners but also that education departments and schools keep telling learners and parents/caregivers that school meals can be collected at the schools closest to where they live.
Very importantly, the DBE has committed to making school meals available to all learners who qualify for the NSNP, if there is a second wave of COVID-19 infections in the future and school gates are again closed:
“With concerns raised in anticipated second wave of infections, the Department is resolute that all eligible learners will receive or collect meals in line with the risk adjusted school calendar taking into account the COVID-19 protocols and measures.”DBE Director General of Mathanzima Mweli.
This commitment to fulfil learners’ right to basic nutrition, even in possible future crises, is what we have fought so hard for.
Court-ordered progress reports, filed on 13 October by the DBE, show improvement in the rollout of the NSNP. A survey of Equalisers (learner members of Equal Education) across five provinces, conducted in mid-October, affirms that while learners are at school, they are receiving meals. But the survey worryingly shows that:
- The majority of the Equalisers who participated in the survey (143 out of 192, or 74%) are attending school on some days;
- Of the 143 Equalisers who said they are only attending school on some days, 135 (94%) said they don’t get a meal on the days when they are not at school;
- 79 Equalisers said that they need scholar transport to collect food on the days that they are at home, and 77 out of the 79 (97%) said they do not have access to scholar transport to do this.
Some of the findings of the survey, per province:
- KwaZulu-Natal: Of the 47 Equalisers who only attend school on some days, 45 said that they do not get meals for when they are at home;
- Limpopo: All 62 Equalisers who participated in the survey only attend school on some days and all 62 said they don’t get a meal on days when not at school;
- Gauteng: Of the 14 Equalisers who only attend school on some days, 11 said they don’t get a meal on days when not at school;
- Western Cape: Of the 34 Equalisers who participated in the survey, three said they do not receive a meal when at school. Thirteen said there was not enough food for everyone. “The food is never enough, sometimes the pumpkin won’t even be there or samp will end [be finished] while others didn’t receive any food”. Of the 19 Equalisers who only attend school on some days, 16 said that they do not receive meals for when they are at home;
- Eastern Cape: Of the six Equalisers who participated in the survey, the only Equaliser who is not in the classroom everyday said that they don’t have food for when they are at home.
We have written to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and the Education MECs, to highlight worrying elements in the reports, that include:
- The number of learners who are reported to not be receiving meals in Mpumalanga (22%), the Western Cape (52%), and the Free State (18%) – and no explanations are provided; and
- Even though learners going to school to collect meals are able to use their usual scholar transport, it’s not clear how these learners are expected to get back home after collecting their meals, or if they are expected to wait around the school (but not in class) until the end of the day when the scholar transport would ordinarily take them back home.
Our letter asks for:
- An explanation from each province justifying the decision to continue providing hot meals at school, which requires learners to take scholar transport every day – instead of distributing food parcels for learners who are at home;
- An explanation of whether the DBE has given any more thought to the food voucher system, so that learners can get food on the days that they are not in school; and
- For all provinces to send written instructions to schools (circulars) to confirm that learners may collect a meal or a food parcel from the school closest to where they live, for the days that they are not in the classroom at the schools at which they are enrolled.
We have just received the DBE’s latest progress reports, submitted on 2 and 3 November 2020. We commit to analysing these documents to see if the concerns we have raised have been taken into consideration.
Note to editors: Please quote Equal Education, Equal Education Law Centre and SECTION27.
For further media comment or interviews, contact:
Jay-Dee Cyster (Communications Officer Equal Education) firstname.lastname@example.org or 082 924 1352
Julia Chaskalson (Communications Officer SECTION27) email@example.com or 083 440 2674
Tad Khosa (Media and Communications Coordinator Equal Education Law Centre) firstname.lastname@example.org or 081 346 0180