There have been many problems with the government’s plan to provide meals to learners during the lockdown. It has even been accused of using social media to lie about how successful the school feeding programme has been. This has upset a few organisations, including Equal Education which has taken Minister Motshekga and eight provinces to court for failing to follow a court order.
Equal Education says although the Basic Education department has made some improvements with the school feeding programme, it has still fallen short on giving a detailed report about how it plans to solve issues about collecting meals and parcels.
“The latest report claims that the main problem with the rollout of the NSNP is that learners aren’t collecting meals or food parcels because of the recent temporary closure of schools, fears around physical distancing and the lack of scholar transport. The report does not, however, offer any plans to address these challenges.”
Equal Education says the report puts a lot of responsibility on learners and their families, which is unfair because the failure of the programme is not their fault.
The organisation believes that the department should take responsibility to communicate with schools, learners and families about the safety measures put in place and the times to collect meals at school.
“It is also the responsibility of each province to ensure that all safety protocols that have been developed to contain the spread of Covid-19 in schools are properly implemented.”
Some schools in the Eastern Cape are in violation of the court order, as schools are only giving meals to grade 12 learners instead of all learners.
Equal Education has also found some contradictions between data from the government and what parents and caregivers are saying about the school feeding programme.
“Figures in the report from Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal (where we have heard reports that learners are not receiving food) reflect the number of meals made available by government, rather than the number of meals actually collected by learners.”
“This links to another problem that we have with the report – that the DBE and the PEDs do not clarify what tools are used to collect their data, or what the findings are from their NSNP monitoring visits.”
Equal Education is now asking for the department to:
- Find a more reliable way of collecting and reporting on data about the meals collected by learners
- Find a new way to communicate with learners and school communities about physical distancing and the correct times to collect meals.
- Make transport available to learners who live far so they can collect food from schools
- Provide business plans to show proof that enough money is being used towards the school feeding programme.
“It is unacceptable that learners and families may be unaware that they can fetch the school meals they are entitled to because of poor communication from education departments, or because they might not have transport to school.”
The court reports are meant to be a way for the department to work with communities and schools to make sure that all learners receive meals, but the department’s reports make this difficult because the data does not match the difficulties learners have faced with getting meals.
Equal Education said, “We will continue monitoring the delivery of food with schools throughout the country so that we have a sense of the uptake of the NSNP and any obstacles to the uptake, as well as how these problems are being fixed – or neglected – by the DBE.”