SECTION27 and the Equal Education Law Centre (EELC) have approached the court on behalf of a number of learners, parents, teachers and school governing bodies in an attempt to get the government to feed millions of children who have gone hungry since the schools closed during the Covid-19 lockdown.
It was hoped that, once schools started re-opening, the school feeding schemes, which are planned and budgeted for, would resume in full. However, the Minister and the Department of Basic Education have opted, for now, to only feed Grade 7 and 12 children.
SECTION27 and EELC have filed a number of affidavits on behalf of their clients – Equal Education and the School Governing Bodies of two schools.
Maverick Citizen has been given access to affidavits from the SECTION27 and EELC clients and they make for harrowing reading. They tell a story of extreme hunger and poverty, but also of a government that has to be dragged to court to compel them to feed children who desperately need one meal a day, who have no source of food other than the school feeding scheme.
Learners’ affidavits, particularly, make for stomach-churning reading, but it is important to read their stories to try to understand the lived realities of people in small, off-the-map, far-flung villages in South Africa. People, even worse children, going hungry in South Africa is unforgivable. It is also important to pay tribute to the bravery of teachers, parents, school governing bodies and learners who are speaking out despite being fearful of intimidation and losing their jobs.
We publish extracts from 15 affidavits and even though these documents will become public in the courts, SECTION27 and EELC requested that we do not identify their clients by name for fear of intimidation.
‘For the duration of May we had no food at home and my mother could only afford to buy bread. My mother had to ask for food from our neighbours who gave us small rations of maize to cook.’
Mpho (not real name) is an 18 year old Grade 12 learner in Limpopo.
“I live with my 46 year old mother who is employed as a food handler at a nearby school. I have never known my father. I also live with my three siblings. My oldest sibling is 23 years old and has never been employed. My second sibling is 15 and is currently in grade 8, also at (my) high school. Lastly, my youngest sibling is six years old and doing grade 1.
“The only person with any income at home is my mother who supports us with the little money she earns as an NSNP food handler as well as the child support grant she gets for two of my siblings. However, the money my mother receives is not enough as we on occasion go long periods without food. For instance, for the duration of May we had no food at home and my mother could only afford to buy bread. My mother had to ask for food from our neighbours who gave us small rations of maize to cook. My mother was finally able to buy 20 kilograms of maize only on 27 May.
“Prior to the lockdown, I used to look forward to the meals I receive at school as they would be my first meal of the day. These meals vary from either samp, pap or rice with tinned fish and vegetables. I appreciate these meals because after having a good meal at school I am able to focus and concentrate on my school work.
“When schools were closed during the lockdown, it was extremely difficult at home because there was no food and we couldn’t access the NSNP. Although we did get some help from our neighbours from time to time, the food was not enough for all of us.
“When I heard the announcement from the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, that schools would reopen on 01 June 2020 I was extremely relieved because I could access meals from the NSNP again. However, I feel bad for other learners such as my younger siblings who aren’t able to get NSNP meals like I am because they have not yet returned to school. If my siblings were also able to access these meals, it would take a lot of pressure and stress from my family.
“When schools were closed I was unable to do much learning at home because of the situation at home. The fact that I wasn’t able to learn worried me deeply because I have a lot of hope in my studies. I do not want my poverty to affect my studies because I want to go on to study further after matric and change the situation at home.” DM/MC
"It is much safer for a prince to be feared than loved." ~ Niccolo Machiavelli