Dear Minister Motshekga …

Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. (Photo: Baba Jiyane/GCIS)

A group of learners have released letters to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, begging her to fix the remaining problems being experienced with the rollout of the National School Nutrition Programme. Equal Education, working closely alongside the Equal Education Law Centre and SECTION27, has been monitoring the reinstatement and implementation of the National School Nutrition Programme.

First published in Daily Maverick 168.

When President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national lockdown in March this year, all schools in the country also had to close.

It was the public schools that bore the brunt of this lockdown as this meant that the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) was also shut.

This left nine million learners without the daily meal they relied on in order not to go hungry. Most of these learners come from families where parents are unemployed or informally employed and they therefore have irregular sources of income which was further exacerbated by loss of income during the Covid-19 lockdown, which meant that learners often went hungry.

Civil society organisation Equal Education (EE) intervened to ensure that the Department of Basic Education continued to fulfil its constitutional obligation of ensuring that learners continued to receive food during the lockdown.

While the minister of basic education initially agreed to continue the NSNP, she later backtracked, which resulted in EE and two school governing bodies from Limpopo taking the matter to court. They were represented by public interest law organisations Equal Education Law Centre and SECTION27.

They won the case on 17 July with judgment saying that Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and eight provincial education MECs were in breach of their constitutional duties for failing to roll out the NSNP to all qualifying learners – regardless of whether these learners had returned to class or were still at home – and ordered that the NSNP be reinstated immediately.

Since then, Equal Education has been monitoring the reinstatement and implementation of the NSNP, which has occurred at a slow pace with many impediments.

Here we publish a series of open letters written by Equalisers on the problems they have been experiencing regarding the NSNP roll-out. DM168

Equalisers are learner members of civil society organisation Equal Education.

From (L-R),Kamohelo Mofokeng,Thato Phuti,Asisipho Bulana,Abongile Dlamini,Ntombi Mngomezulu and Phila Mzimela.

Thato Phuti: Equaliser from Winnie Mandela Secondary School, Gauteng

Dear Minister Motshekga,

These are the things we face during school hours regarding the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP):

We only receive food from school if we attend. During Covid-19 many learners didn’t get to receive food from school because we came to school on different days. Only Grade 12 learners came the whole week, even on weekends. I feel like some learners needed to receive food from school even though they didn’t attend every day. The reason why I am saying this is because some learners depend on the food from school because they come from disadvantaged families.

We face challenges every single day, sometimes the food is enough, some days food is less while the learners are many, other days it’s reciprocal: the food is more while the learners are few.

A way to improve the feeding scheme is that the school takes statistics on which grade is going to attend on what specific day. This can be done to have a clear picture of how many learners they are expecting to come to school.

Who benefits from all this? That’s the question we need to ask ourselves during this pandemic. It seems to me that the Grade 12 learners are benefiting because they come to school every single day.

The feeding scheme [currently] operates like this: In the morning you get to eat soft porridge. During the day, when it’s lunchtime, you get to eat a decent meal – not really decent but able to be eaten. The reason why I am saying it is not decent is because the food sometimes gives you a runny stomach.


Asisipho Bulana: Equaliser from Phandulwazi High School, Western Cape 

Dear Minister Motshekga,

My name is Asisipho Bulana, a Grade 11 learner from Phandulwazi High School. I am an Equaliser at Equal Education. I am from Cape Town, Western Cape. I attend a public school with learners who mainly depend on the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) and I write this letter to express my views on this programme.

This programme has helped a lot of learners who come from poor families and those who come to school with an empty stomach. The breakfast and lunch really make a difference for every learner, even me! The food is prepared in a clean environment which protects us from getting food poisoning or any other sickness – at my school, at least.

At school, we usually run out of gas and that results in us not getting the food that we are supposed to get because there isn’t any gas to cook the food. There is not enough food in the school and as a result, other learners do not eat. The NSNP states that we are not supposed to eat the same meals but we actually do.

After food has been given to learners and there are leftovers, we do not get the leftovers. During this time of the pandemic, you have to bring your own plate and if you do not bring it, you do not get the food even though there are plates in the kitchen.

I would like to see a lot of changes in the NSNP such as the distribution of enough food. There should be the same supply of food in all provinces. Schools must be provided with quality food that is fresh and nutritious. There should be a food inspector to make sure that the food is of a good standard.

In conclusion, I would really like to see all of the above suggestions being implemented in all schools, especially here in the Western Cape.


Ntombi Mngomezulu: Equaliser from Ngwane Secondary School, KwaZulu-Natal

Dear Minister Motshekga,

The budget cut simply showed how learners and teachers are sidelined even though they are on the frontline. Court cases have been attended around the issues of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) and the issue of funds not being enough was raised. Having some funds cut in the budget will lead to more problems.

The government fails to realise that most learners are fed through the NSNP. Most learners go to school hungry with the hope that they’ll find food at school. With budget cuts what will become of those learners? What will become of children whose hope lies in the NSNP? Has the government taken enough time to think about learners who head their homes? I doubt they’ve considered those souls that will starve due to the budget cut.

If it happens that the money runs out, are there alternative funders that will help carry out the NSNP?


Kamohelo Mofokeng: Equaliser from Tandi Eleanor Sibeko Secondary School, Gauteng

Dear Minister Motshekga,

As a learner, I am basically happy about receiving food in school because sometimes I leave home not knowing if I’d receive a meal or not. The challenge is that food parcels are not necessarily given to learners, even to the ones who are less privileged.

It [the National School Nutrition Programme] can be improved by involving the government more in children’s lives because many families are child-headed ones. It [the National School Nutrition Programme] can benefit the community in a good way because the school might get donations and make the community happy with the little they can do.

The process is simple: The school will provide each and every learner with food parcels each week and spread the word so that learners can be encouraged to come to school every day and have hope for a better future.


Abongile Dlamini: Equaliser from Lesiba Secondary School, Gauteng

Dear Minister Motshekga,

I am a learner from Lesiba Secondary School in Daveyton. I feel that the meals we get from school are not proper for us learners. School meals are the only meals some children get in a day but in school we don’t get enough food to satisfy our hunger. I feel like the meals that we get at school are unhealthy –   all learners deserve a healthy meal. Some learners face daily hardships because of hunger and the meals we get at school makes it even harder.

In schools we face a lot of challenges regarding the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP). For starters, there’s a scarcity of food for learners because the food that is delivered is not enough and the little that is sent doesn’t all go to the learners. As a result many learners face starvation. The South African Constitution provides for the right to food.

According to the Department of Basic Education, school principals have to manage the NSNP and appoint a nutrition co-ordinator to assist him/her. Management of the NSNP entails, among other things, budgeting, managing allocated funds and the sourcing, buying, transporting and storing of food. They are the most important players along with the SGBs in the annual appointment of food handlers and parents who serve food to learners and who oversee the process of food delivery to a school. I personally believe if all these main role players do their jobs right the NSNP will improve.

The NSNP enhances the learning capacity of learners through the provision of a healthy meal at schools. Where it is implemented the programme was meant to improve punctuality, regular school attendance, concentration and general wellbeing of participating learners. The benefit of all these meals is to improve the ability of learners to learn.

The NSNP is the government programme that provides one nutritious meal to all learners in poorer primary and secondary schools. The programme also teaches learners and parents how to lead a healthy lifestyle and promotes development of school vegetable gardens, which is not very well done in school.


Phila Mzimeli: Equaliser from Breidbach Senior Secondary, Eastern Cape

Dear Minister Motshekga,

I am Phila Mzimeli, a Grade 10 learner at Breidbach Senior Secondary School. I am writing this letter today to inform you about changes in the way our National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) is going during lockdown.

As a learner I am not happy about the school nutrition programme at our school. At Breidbach Senior Secondary, only the learners who are at school physically are being fed, even though you [Minister Motshekga] promised us that we could get meals even if we are not at school.

There are learners who depend on that school meal because of a lack of food at home and if he/she does not get the school meal while not at school, he/she will not be able to concentrate while studying at home.

I would really appreciate it if you as the minister of basic education would hold yourself accountable for the NSNP and make sure that even learners at home get meals because they suffer from hunger which will lead to more crime.


You can get your copy of DM168 at these Pick n Pay stores.


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