Education activists have welcomed the KZN Education Department’s decision to revert to the old method of supply and delivery of food items to schools following the collapse of the province’s school feeding scheme.
The move means that the department will send money directly to schools that will be responsible for sourcing food items from local suppliers.
However, the Equal Education and Equal Education Law Centre say while the measure will prevent learners at affected schools from going hungry, an investigation into the collapse of the project is urgently needed to ensure that it never happens again.
Equal Education Communications Manager, Jay-Dee Cyster, says even though the rollout of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) has not been perfect since the COVID-19 pandemic, the present hiccup in the province is most worrying.
“It is still unknown what is causing the province’s food supply to be interrupted. What is certain is that some caregivers are currently struggling to fill the gap left by learners’ inability to access this crucial social protection. We therefore urge the department to act quickly to resolve the issue so that food delivery can resume to all qualifying learners.”
The story made headlines nationwide last month when it emerged that KwaZulu-Natal learners had been going hungry since they returned from the Easter break.
Pacina Pty Ltd is the company that was contracted to single-handedly supply food to all schools in KwaZulu-Natal. The company, however, withdrew from the deal after a public outcry over thousands of children either going hungry or not receiving food due to its failure to fulfil delivery obligations.
Both the Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, and the KZN Education MEC, Mbali Frazer, have apologised for the disruptions.
The Minister says over 99% of learners in the province have now received their food packs.
Frazer has on the other hand expressed shame over the incident. “As a department we are ashamed of ourselves, as parents we are hurt and we hope nothing of this nature ever happens again,” she has said.
It is estimated that the NSNP feeds about 9.6 million children on a daily basis across the country and the government invests R9.2 billion a year on the programme.
Written by: Nokwazi Qumbisa