The pandemic has affected most households financially, leaving the most vulnerable with the need for intervention.
Equal Education is a non-profit organisation that has appealed to the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to assist vulnerable children with food.
Previously, schools had feeding schemes for their respective learners. Equal Education has asked government to extend their support to other children in local communities.
Children who are not in school are also included in the initiative, which is part of the School Nutrition Programme.
The organisation appeared in court on the June 20 as a means to urge DBE to consider their appeal. The appearance was with regards to the organisation’s concern that DBE failed to comply with a court order granted in 2020.
The court order gave an instruction to Basic Education to ensure that pupils get a meal every day.
The group has also filed an urgent application to the Pretoria High Court against Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and 8 provincial MEC. They are scheduled to appear in court on the 19 July 2021.
Section 27 Activist Julia Chaskalson explained that they will be representing Equal Education, school governing bodies, and Equal Education Law Centre of public schools.
“We are returning to court because government has failed to reach out to all 9.5 million learners who need the National School Nutrition Programme for almost over a year now”, said Chaskalson.
She explained that the National School Nutrition Programme, well known as the feeding scheme, was abruptly suspended a year ago. This put the government in breach of its constitutional obligation of providing school children with a daily meal.
She futher explained that failure to sustain the feeding scheme violates the rights of students. These rights include the right to equality and dignity, basic education and basic nutrition.
“Currently, more than 1.5 million school children are going without daily school meals, and we know that child hunger is more dire now than before the pandemic”, Chaskalson stated.
She mentioned that parents and school governing bodies have brought it to their attention that some learners are struggling without daily school meals.
She also explained that the government should identify needs of students which are caused by the pandemic and adjust assistance to cater for the current need.
According to the constitution, students are entitled to daily meals even when they are at home. This means that even when a school closes due to covid-19, there should be a plan in place to provide students with food.
She stated that over the past year they have been engaging with the DBE to assist student who struggle with transport to school for meals. “Alternatively, the government could deliver food parcels to students at their homes”, she added.
It has been reported that for many students, these daily meals are all they get on daily basis.
Chaskalson stated that DBE has failed to implement the given suggestions and has not come up with alternatives to resolve the matter.
She explained that the lack of action could be a result of logistical restraints as the programme is funded through conditional grants.
She further stated that DBE is failing to appeal for more funds from treasury to support the programme.
“We need the programme to be responsive. We need it to face the realities that learners are facing”. - Julia Chaskalson