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'They are too poor to eat’

Covid-19

Child Hunger

‘They are too poor to eat’

A resident takes an apple from a box after receiving some food during a feeding scheme at Excelsior Senior Secondary School in Belhar on April 28, 2020 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images/Roger Sedres)

Thabo (not real name) is a member of the School Government Body at Mashao High School. The school is located in Ga-Ntata Village and caters for 298 learners. The Quintile 1 school is non-fee-paying.

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 3

‘Learners from our school who are from poor families will continue not to get meals until they return to class. They are too poor to eat; and too poor to be able to access the online resources to study from home.’

Thabo (not real name) is a member of the School Government Body at Mashao High School. The school is located in Ga-Ntata Village and caters for 298 learners. The Quintile 1 school is non-fee-paying.

“The villages that feed into the school are poor and there are high levels of unemployment in the area. The learners at the school come from predominantly poor families. Most of their parents are unemployed and rely solely on grants as a means of supporting their families. Some of our learners do not have parents and some come from child headed households.

“Some learners live in very dire circumstances. We have seven learners that have no access to food at all outside of the school nutrition programme. Teachers at the end of the school term donate money to buy food so that learners can eat while on term break.

“Almost all of the learners at the school rely on the meals provided by the school through the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP). The programme runs well and there have historically not been any issues with the programme. Learners receive one meal each day, consisting of a starch (rice, samp or pap) served with cabbage or tinned fish.

“Receiving the meal at school every day helps the learners at the school to concentrate. Many learners who rely on the NSNP do not eat breakfast so the meal they get is often their first meal of the day. Many of the learners have no way of supplementing the food they get at the school because their families cannot afford any form of pocket money or even a lunch box for school. The NSNP allows our learners to get at least one nutritious meal a day.

“I stay in the village with a lot of learners from the school. During the lockdown most of the families I know did not receive additional social grants. There were no food parcels delivered to our village. Outside of these interventions, there are no other ways of ensuring that families have sufficient food. As a result, many of the children haven’t been eating properly. Some of the parents do farm work and can bring home vegetables for the family to eat. Many are not so lucky.

“When the school reopened on 8 June 2020, we did not receive any communication from the Department of Education about plans for reopening. There was no communication regarding the NSNP.

“We heard on the radio that the programme will restart and all learners will eat irrespective of the grade and whether they’d returned to class. However, only enough food for 32 learners (our Grade 12 class) was delivered to the school.

“Learners from our school who are from poor families will continue not to get meals until they return to class. They are too poor to eat; and too poor to be able to access the online resources to study from home.” 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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