Equal Education, Section 27 and two Limpopo schools won their case in the North Gauteng High Court last Friday when Judge S. Potterill ruled that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and eight MECs for Education must provide food in accordance with the school nutrition scheme to all learners, irrespective of whether or not they attend school.
Section 27, Equal Education and the two schools approached the High Court after the food scheme was suspended on 13 March, leaving around nine million learners without their daily meal.
Urgent documentation was filed in the court on 12 June in a desperate attempt to address the dire situation in struggling schools where learners were not receiving food at school due to Covid-19 lockdown that has put a stop to the feeding scheme.
Potterill ordered Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to provide the applicants with a plan and programme to be implemented without delay, to ensure that the MECs carry out their duties relating to providing food to qualifying learners during the state of disaster.
Motshekga was also ordered to provide copies to the applicants every 15 days from the date of the order, until the order is discharged by court.
In a hearing on 2 July, part of the DBE’s argument was that they had not ‘refused’ the programme but said the food scheme was not part of educational legislation despite a conditional grant being granted to the department for this purpose.
The judge found the minister had a constitutional and statutory duty to ensure that the sceheme provides a daily meal to all qualifying learners and by not doing this, the minister and MECs were in breach of these duties.
Motshekga argued that the department would not be able to roll out the programme to all learners but the judge said that the minister did not justify why, from 8 June 2020, it was reasonable not to roll out the scheme to all the learners, as funding of the programme was not an issue.
“We welcome the judgment for its recognition that the constitutional rights to basic nutrition and basic education are inextricably linked, and celebrate this as a victory not only for over nine million learners, but for the millions of households whose food security has been gravely compromised due to the lockdown. For learners to receive meals at school will ease the strain on caregivers – many of whom are struggling to put food on the table,” Equal Education, their Law Centre and Section 27 said in a joint statement on Friday.
Tidimalo Chuene, Spokesperson for Education in Limpopo at the end of last month, two days before the commencement of the case, said the department has already instructed service providers to deliver food to their allocated schools so that food handlers can start with preparations for all grades to serve meals at schools.
Story: Nelie Erasmus
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