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Covid-19

Child Hunger

‘It is difficult to concentrate on an empty stomach’

A South African child holds food packs from the Groundbreakers community feeding program in Ocean View, Cape Town, South Africa, 13 April 2020. (Photo: EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA)

Amelia, 16, lives in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape and is a Grade 10 learner at Cedar High School situated in Mitchells Plain. She lives with her parents and 10-year-old sibling who is a Grade 4 learner attending Academia Primary School, in Eersterivier.

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.

Affidavit 13

Amelia, 16, lives in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape and is a Grade 10 learner at Cedar High School situated in Mitchells Plain. She lives with her parents and 10-year-old sibling who is a Grade 4 learner attending Academia Primary School, in Eersterivier.

‘It is difficult to concentrate on an empty stomach. I would therefore like my school to provide me with food through the school feeding scheme.’

“Before school closures commenced in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, my school provided daily meals by way of the NSNP to all the learners enrolled at my school. I too was a recipient of the meals that were distributed two times per day.

Since schools closed on 18 March, I have not received any meals through the school feeding scheme. I have also not received food from a community feeding scheme.

To the best of my knowledge, I do not receive a child support grant and nor does my sibling.

As far as I am aware, my school has not opened during the lockdown to provide learners with food from the NSNP. I was never informed either by the school principal or other learners that my school was opened during the lockdown for the provision of food to learners.

My family and I do not have enough food at home. This impacted on my ability to study. It is difficult to concentrate on an empty stomach. I would therefore like my school to provide me with food through the school feeding scheme.

Resuming school feeding programmes only for learners in grades returning to schools does not make sense because the majority of us were dependent on the school feeding scheme. All deserving learners should be given food.” DM/MC

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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