FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Eastern Cape learners ‘crying from hunger’ after school nutrition scheme fails to deliver meals
Teachers in the Eastern Cape have reported that children were crying from hunger in class after the National School Nutrition Programme failed to provide more than a million learners with a daily meal.
The Eastern Cape Department of Education has promised that payment for school nutrition schemes will be made by Tuesday, 9 May, after more than a million children were left without a daily meal at school since 12 April because of an administrative delay.
The Democratic Alliance’s Yusuf Cassim said the party had received information that the delay in the verification of pupils receiving food was caused by staff shortages and load shedding.
“For many children, the food they receive from their school nutrition programme is often the only meal they receive each day. When schools are unable to feed them, it places an additional burden on families already buckling under the weight of the cost-of-living crisis we are facing.
“There are currently 3,056 quintile 1-3 primary schools and an additional 1,815 quintile 1-3 secondary schools that have been affected.
“As a result, since reopening on 12 April 2023, these schools across the province have been battling to feed children as they have not received the necessary funds,” said Cassim.
He said he would request that the Education Committee in the Eastern Cape Legislature summon Education MEC Fundile Gade and his department to explain why this was allowed to happen.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Food paste to the rescue: Plain rice the only meal a day for malnourished kids in Eastern Cape
In his policy speech, the MEC for education in the province, Fundile Gade said the National School Nutrition Programme aimed to enhance learning capacity and promote access to quality education by providing nutritious meals to learners in the province’s poorest schools.
The programme is funded through a conditional grant of R1-billion.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Seven children starve to death, others fight for their lives while malnutrition ravages Eastern Cape
A second programme, which provides the most vulnerable learners also with breakfast, was introduced in 2019. Initially, it fed about 9,000 children but this has grown to more than a million as the levels of poverty in the province increase.
Corene Conradie from Gift of the Givers said they had been inundated with requests from school nutrition schemes for food assistance in the past month.
“We try to help as many people as we can with what we have,” she said.
She said learners in some towns in the province were leaving school to beg on the streets for food. She said Gift of the Givers had made bulk food deliveries to schools that asked for help.
Read more in Daily Maverick: KZN schools send hungry pupils home as National School Nutrition Programme fails to deliver
Glenda Brunette from Walmer Angels said they too were inundated with requests for food and children come to eat at their two soup kitchens in the afternoons. DM/MC