From the news desk

71% of pupils not back at school go hungry

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Its has been three months since the High Court in Pretoria ordered the department of basic education to reinstate the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) but children across the country are still going without food.

In July, the court ordered the department to ensure all qualifying children got meals. But Equal Education, along with its Law Centre and Section27 this week released the results of a recent survey, in which 76% of those who took part said they were not yet back at school full time and 71% of those, that they didn’t get a meal on days when they were home.

This comes on the back of the department’s latest court-ordered progress report, filed in mid-September, which indicated that almost 2 million of the 9.6 million children who ordinarily benefitted from the state-sponsored school-feeding scheme were still not being reached.

In March, shortly after South Africa’s first cases of Covid-19 were confirmed, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced the closure of the country’s schools and the suspension of the NSNP. In May, she announced pupils in Grades 7 and 12 would return to school in June and that the NSNP would resume for all qualifying pupils at the same time.

She ended up backtracking on the latter, however, saying the department needed more time to “acclimatise”, prompting Equal Education together with two Limpopo high schools to turn to the court. Judge Sulet Potterill in her ruling highlighted that the NSNP was “a life-saving programme for the poorest of the poor child”.

“The affidavits from teachers, learners and parents capture the reality on the ground. “They make it clear that hunger is not a problem, hunger is an obscenity,” she said at the time.

Equal Education, the Equal Education Law Centre and Section27 wrote to Motshekga and her colleagues this week. In their letter, they said most provinces needed a plan for the provision of food to children who had not yet returned to school – full time or at all.

They pointed to low uptakes still being recorded in some provinces and particularly the North West, where more than 400,000 eligible children were, according to the department’s September report, still not receiving food.

They also called for improved data reflecting the number of children who were receiving food at school, as well as the number who were receiving it at home and for a “clear and reliable” plan for the provision of scholar transport for those who lived far from school.

They also wanted to know whether there were plans in place to ensure the NSNP’s continuance during a potential second wave of Covid-19. Basic education spokesperson Elijah Mahlangu yesterday declined to comment, saying the department would provide an update on the situation in its next report, which is due this month.

Source: The Citizen

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