Covid-19

Child Hunger

‘Some of the learners don’t even have parents’

‘Some of the learners don’t even have parents’
A child holds a plastic tub on his head to collect food from a feeding program in Lavender Hill on April 17, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

Sipho (not real name) is a teacher in Ga-Ntata, a village in Limpopo. He teaches all Grades at Mashao Secondary School (Mashao). He shares a story of hunger, heartbreak and suffering.

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 5

‘I know for a fact that many learners who are still at home are desperate for schools to open so that they may once more access meals from school.’

Sipho (not real name) is a teacher in Ga-Ntata, a village in Limpopo. He teaches all Grades at Mashao Secondary School (Mashao).

“Most learners at Mashao come from homes that are impoverished and they rely on the NSNP at the school for nutrition. Many of the children in our school come from families that live off grants and their adult family members are generally unemployed.

“Moreover, some of the learners don’t even have parents. Some of these learners live with grandparents and others have no adults whatsoever raising them and are from child headed households.

“Usually, the learners line-up at the kitchen and receive their lunch from the NSNP around 09:45. They receive a variety of meals which include samp, rice or pap with cabbage, carrots, tinned fish and milk.

“In the past, there have been days where the NSNP has stopped because of the food running out a few days before the end of the month. When this happens, we ask learners to bring their own lunchboxes until the end of the month but many learners come from homes with no food and so they bring nothing at all and spend the day hungry.

“As the staff at the school we have identified some of these learners who are extremely impoverished and we gather some funds amongst ourselves and purchase food packs for these learners and their families for them to take home so that they may have food to eat at home.

“As teachers we know from experience that when learners don’t have food, their concentration levels are extremely low and they are unable to absorb any new information and so they aren’t able to learn.

“Some time back, whilst watching a media briefing from the Department of Basic Education, I heard that all learners, irrespective of whether their grade was being phased in or not, would be allowed to receive meals from schools. Given the dire situations many of our learners are faced with, I was hugely relieved. However, to my disappointment, the food that has been delivered by the DBE is only sufficient for our grade 12 learners. I am extremely concerned for the rest of the learners who remain at home without any access to food. 

“I know for a fact that many learners who are still at home are desperate for schools to open so that they may once more access meals from school. It is a great concern to myself and many of my colleagues.” 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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