More than one million school children hungry


South Africa’s education departments are allegedly slacking on fulfilling the court-ordered reporting on the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP), while more than a million learners are still not receiving meals

More than 1.5 million learners are allegedly still not being provided with school meals, while some provincial education departments are repeatedly failing to report on whether they are effectively rolling out the NSNP, despite a court order mandating them to do so. 

These were the concerns raised by citizens’ rights advocacy organisations, Equal Education and Section 27, in a joint statement about the school nutrition programme on Wednesday.

“This slacking in the monitoring of whether learners are receiving meals, undermines the intentions of the court order from our 2020 case. The delays and failures to provide reports on the NSNP rollout has limited the ability of Equal Education, Equal Education Law Centre and SECTION27 to monitor the delivery of meals, and ensure that all nine million learners are receiving the food they are entitled to,” the advocacy groups said.

Equal Education and Section 27 said that they had received the last round of monitoring reports from Education Minister Angie Motshekga, Director-General of the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and from the Education MECs of KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga, after the court deadline of 19 March 2021. The reports from the Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng and Limpopo had not been submitted. 

“Even worse is that the DBE and provincial education departments have not submitted the most recent round of monitoring reports, which were due on 14 April 2021, the advocacy groups said. 

“The one report submitted by DBE Director-General Mathamzima Mweli shows that at least 1.5 million learners are still not receiving the meals. This shows that the NSNP has still not reached 100% of all learners that qualify for school meals – even though it’s been over a year since the outbreak of COVID-19 and almost nine months have passed after the court ordered the DBE and provincial education departments to provide school meals regardless of whether learners are in classrooms or at home,” the groups said.

“This is an unbelievable and terrible neglect of responsibility, that allows children to go hungry. This is an ongoing violation of children’s rights, and barriers to learners’ getting the school meals they are entitled to must be fixed urgently. Many families have lost their income and slipped further below the food-poverty line.

Equal Education and Section 27 said that they had written to the DBE and provincial education departments, to express that it was “unacceptable and unjustifiable” that NSNP monitoring reports had not been submitted on time. The groups said they had reiterated their call for education officials to:

*Provide scholar transport to all learners so that they can get meals.

*Send a circular to all provinces communicating that learners can get meals from the school they live nearest to.

*Provide food parcels for learners who are not in school every day.

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