It’s a giant fail for E Cape lockdown school feeding plan

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It’s a giant fail for E Cape lockdown school feeding plan

Only 38,594 pupils arrived to collect food, while the feeding scheme is supposed to feed almost 1.6 million

Journalist
Children queue for food as part of the school feeding scheme during lockdown in Blue Downs near Cape Town.
Warm relief Children queue for food as part of the school feeding scheme during lockdown in Blue Downs near Cape Town.
Image: Reuters/Mike Hutchings

The Eastern Cape education department has failed dismally to provide meals to pupils in grades that have not yet been phased in at school.

As President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a month-long shutdown of schools this week it emerged that only 38,594 pupils went to school to collect food.

Almost 1.6 million pupils are supposed to benefit from the province’s R1.3bn National School Nutrition Programme.

The failure to get the majority of pupils to collect food has cast serious doubts over the ability of schools in the province to provide food for all pupils when schools close until August 24.

The provincial education department blamed parents who were reluctant to send their children to school for fear of contracting Covid-19 for the low number of pupils arriving to collect food.

Spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said schools were not able to forecast daily meal totals “as collection is haphazard and inconsistent”.

“One of the biggest challenges was the non-provision of scholar transport to learners that are not phased in to access these meals.”

But, he said, they were trying to improve distribution.

We encourage schools to use the established networks to reach as many of our learners as possible.
Loyiso Pulumani, Eastern Cape education department

“We encourage schools to use the established networks to reach as many of our learners as possible.”

In the Free State, pupils attending school and those at home have been receiving meals since June 26.

Spokesperson Howard Ndaba said: “All eligible learners are required to come to school to fetch a cooked meal.”

Schools were adhering to the disaster management regulations and were feeding pupils “in a staggered manner”.

“Each school has developed its own schedule.”

He confirmed that the 596,674 pupils benefiting from the scheme – which has an annual budget of R431.8m – will have to fetch food from school while schools are shut over the next four weeks.

In Gauteng, pupils not at school have been asked to bring their own containers from home to collect food.

The province, which has a R1.3bn budget for the feeding scheme, resumed feeding 1.5 million pupils from the beginning of July.

Gauteng education department spokesperson Steve Mabona said: “Learners, who use learner transport and who are not yet back at school, will be picked up at 10am at their various pick-up points to collect their food from school. Schools will still be used as feeding centres as all the infrastructure for cooking is already in place.”

He said staff members had to help to make sure there was proper social distancing.

The Western Cape – the only province to have continued feeding pupils from the early stages of the lockdown – provided close to 1.7 million meals between April 6 and June 8.

Spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said schools had been instructed to feed all pupils, including those in grades that had not yet been phased in.

“We will continue feeding our 473,174 vulnerable learners while school is closed.”

The province’s feeding-scheme budget was R412.5m and the department had to get additional funding from the provincial treasury.

Limpopo’s education spokesperson Tidimalo Chuene confirmed that pupils who lived far away would be given food hampers while schools were closed.

Schools in the province started providing meals from the beginning of the month.

More than 1.6 million pupils benefit from the feeding scheme, which has an annual budget of R1.4bn.

In the Northern Cape, 267,427 pupils from 503 schools benefit from the scheme.

The North West, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal education departments failed to respond to media queries.