Covid-19

Child Hunger

‘There is no school feeding’

South African children mark their places by placing their lunch boxes and bowels in a road marked with social distancing lines and cover them with stones to prevent them from blowing away in the wind as they wait for food from the Masiphumelele Creative Hub feeding scheme run by Yandiswa Mazwana in Masiphumelele, Cape Town, South Africa 28 May 2020. (Photo: EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA)

Zukiswa (not real name) is an 18-year-old Grade 12 learner at Thandokhulu High School situated in Mowbray.

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.

Maverick Citizen has been given access to affidavits from the SECTION27 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 nine affidavits and even though these documents will become public in the courts, SECTION27 requested that we do not identify their clients by name for fear of intimidation.

Affidavit 10

Zukiswa (not real name) is an 18-year-old Grade 12 learner at Thandokhulu High School situated in Mowbray.

‘My family and I do not have enough food at home.’

“I live with my two siblings who are 17 and 18 years old and who are both currently attending Grade 12 at Isilimela Comprehensive High School.

“Before school closures commenced on 18 March 2020, my school was offering the 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 three times per day.

“On 18 March 2020, my school (and all other schools in South Africa) had been closed. Since then I had not received any meals through the NSNP. I have also not been receiving any food parcels from a community feeding scheme. However, one of my siblings once received a free food parcel from a non-governmental organisation called Just Great. The food was helpful to us but only lasted for about a week.

“My 17-year-old sibling is the only recipient of the Child Support Grant. Our grandmother who currently resides in the Eastern Cape is receiving the grant on behalf of my sibling, which she sends to us every month to purchase groceries.

“As far as I am aware, my school has not opened during the lockdown to provide learners with food from the NSNP. Similarly, and to the best of my knowledge, my siblings’ school did not open during the lockdown to provide food to learners.

“My family and I do not have enough food at home. The meals that we had received through the school feeding scheme were a great help to me and my siblings. The fact that we are no longer receiving the meals has seriously affected me. I try to study at home but I am unable to concentrate on my work when I am hungry. We do not have much money. The little we have is used to buy food. I am therefore also unable to purchase data that would allow me to access the schoolwork that my school makes available online.

“On Monday, 1 June 2020, my school reopened. I have not been able to attend school as I do not have money for transport. I received a message from my school informing us that we should bring food to school as the school tuckshop will be closed and there is no school feeding. I want my school to provide food to all the learners regardless of whether they are back at school. The national lockdown has negatively affected everyone. I am therefore not in favour of the NSNP only being provided to Grade 7 and 12 learners returning to school. DM/MC

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