SCHOOL MEALS CRISIS
KZN schools send hungry pupils home as National School Nutrition Programme fails to deliver
KwaZulu-Natal schools resorted to sending learners home ahead of time, with many children having had nothing to eat.
Schools in KwaZulu-Natal have had to send pupils home early because they were unable to provide them with a meal. Food has not been delivered to a number of schools across the province since they reopened after the Easter holiday.
A teacher at Ngilosi Junior Primary School in Umlazi, who does not want to be named for fear of intimidation, said they had no choice but to let the children go home early.
“When we got back from the Easter holidays last Wednesday we were met with a challenge because the food for the learners was not delivered. We still do not know what is happening and when it might be delivered.”
The teacher said learners in Grade R up to Grade 4 leave school at 1.30pm, while the other learners finish at 2.30.
However, because of the lack of food, “We let them all go at 1.30. Some of these children come to school not having had anything to eat. School is their only hope for a meal… there is nothing to eat. We really don’t know what to do.”
She said some of the learners had nothing to eat when they got home.
A teacher at Mziwamandla High School in Umlazi, who did not want to be named, said they had no choice but to cut classes short and would have to do so until the food was delivered.
The two schools are among at least 5,400 schools across the province that rely on the National School Nutrition Programme.
Doris Menyuka from Jozini in rural KZN, and a parent of four learners — two at Msiyane High School and two at Othobothini Primary School — says the disruption of the School Nutrition Programme has hit the family hard.
“Last week, the children came home with letters informing us that there will not be any food at the schools. This is really difficult… because I’m struggling to provide for my family. The child support grant helps, but the food prices have also gone up.
“When the children go to school we have one less thing to worry about because we know that they will have a meal… and this helps them when they are learning. I don’t know how I’m going to ensure that they all go to school fed,” said Menyuka.
Stacey Jacobs, a researcher at Equal Education, said it was a disgrace that this had been allowed to happen and the provincial Department of Education in the province needed to take responsibility. She said they were still trying to find out how the situation came about. Jacobs said media reports had alluded to there being issues between the Department of Education and its suppliers.
“A learner cannot be expected to learn on an empty stomach. The current situation places extra pressure on parents who are already under massive financial pressure while providing for their families,” she said.
In a statement on Monday, the KZN Department of Education confirmed the non-delivery of food to some schools in the province.
“As a result, the MEC for Education, Mbali Frazer directed the HoD and the top management of the department to swiftly investigate the root cause and the possible solution. During the investigation, it transpired that there were logistical challenges encountered by the appointed service provider.”
The department said food had been delivered to 90% of the 5,444 schools in the nutrition programme, although there were still reports of shortages in some schools, including those in the Ugu district.
Zwakele Mncwango, the KZN leader of ActionSA, said corruption caused by the tender awarding system was to blame for the situation.
“While the Department of Education and its MEC, Mbali Frazer, have been tight-lipped regarding the matter and who was awarded the tender, it is a concern that the department saw it fit to divert from a system that has been working without hiccups for a number of years, and introduce one that has unfortunately collapsed before it could take off,” said Mncwango.
He added that it was concerning that the tender had been awarded to a single individual. He said if the matter was not resolved by the end of this month, they would write to the Public Protector, requesting a full investigation into the awarding of the tender. DM/MC