The Department of Education will start feeding all learners who are part of the National School Nutrition Programme as from 1 July 2020.
This news was issued in a media statement on Tuesday morning, two days before the High Court in Pretoria was to hear an urgent case on Thursday, brought by Equal Education (EE) and two Limpopo schools, to ensure that meals are provided to all nine million learners who qualify to benefit from the programme.
The statement read that all learners in Grade R to 12 in quintile 1-3 schools benefitting from the programme, whether their schools have re-opened or not, will be receiving their daily meals from their schools.
Represented by the Equal Education Law Centre and Section 27, EE and the schools asked the court for a declaratory order that there is a duty on government to ensure that all learners who qualify to benefit from the programme must continue to receive these meals, regardless of whether their grades returned to schools on 8 June.
EE Secretary-General Noncedo Madubedube said they were also to ask the court to provide a structural order that requires both national and provincial departments to provide, within five days of the court order, detailed plans and all the information on the implementation of this programme. The organisation said the impact of the suspension of the programme has been devastating. Madubedube added that it was shameful that the government was being taken to court to fulfill its constitutional mandate.
Tidimalo Chuene, Spokesperson for Education 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.
Schools participating in the programme using the decentralised model have also been directed to procure food for all their learners. Learners will be served meals only at schools.
“Schools were further directed to develop workable mechanisms of feeding within the guidelines of the adopted standard operating procedure for the prevention, containment and management of Covid-19 in schools on food preparation and serving. These require schools to adequately take into consideration aspects of social distancing, hand washing, sanitising all work surfaces, cooking food thoroughly and ensuring that learners do not share utensils, food or drinks,” Chuene said.
Parents and caregivers were urged to ensure that learners who only come to school for meals have their masks on at all times and return home as soon as serving is done. “This is a matter which needs us to cooperate with parents, guardians and caregivers so that all learners are safe as and when they receive their meals. This is for the good and welfare of those learners who depend on this programme for a reliable meal. Let it serve its purpose as intended,” said the MEC, Polly Boshielo.
Polokwane Observer spoke to local teachers about their thoughts on the department’s plan and whether learners coming to school specifically for meals is feasible. Molatelo Phooko said it will be difficult for teachers because when learners come in on days they are not meant to be at school, it will be overcrowded and it will be difficult to apply social distancing. “Since they will be overcrowded, the risk of infecting one another will be high.” Moja Rachel said an advantage of the plan is that learners who are in need of food, will now fill their stomachs but the disadvantage is that it will not be easy for teachers to ensure that they maintain social distancing because “children are just children.” Mokete Moroaswi said teachers are not prepared to welcome more learners than what they currently have at school and they are unsure of who will monitor learners during breaktime to make sure that they adhere to the safety measures of Covid-19.
Story: Nelie Erasmus and Ikageng Moroaswi
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