Teachers chip in as feed scheme fails thousands

2009-10-12 00:00

THOUSANDS of pupils in at least three schools in the uMgungundlovu District went without school lunches last week as new co-operatives appointed by the Education Department again failed to arrive at the schools to begin cooking.

In August, The Witness reported that existing suppliers of school lunches had been called back to certain schools at the beginning of last term after being informed at the last minute that the women’s co-operatives, tasked to take over delivery of school lunches, were “not ready”.

Frustrated principals told The Witness last week that they have been informed that the latest “no-show” is a result of delays on the part of Ithala Bank in providing financing to the women’s co-operatives to buy stock.

Meanwhile, thousands of children at Berg Street Primary, Forest Hill Primary and Umsilinga Primary schools, most of whom come from low-income households and depend heavily on the school meals for sustenance, had to do without lunches for the whole week.

Reshma Amritlal, principal of Berg Street Primary, said teachers used their own money to buy bread and other ingredients for sandwiches for the 600-odd children who needed meals.

“It’s terrible to see the plight of our children,” she said.

She said promises from the National School Nutrition Programme

(NSNP) district office this week that supplies would be delivered on Wednesday came to nothing.

“No proper arrangements have been made to facilitate the handover from our existing supplier [J&T Marketing] to the new co-operative,” she said.

Principal of Umsilinga Primary in Copesville, Shovashni Essa, said despite assurances by the NSNP office, no supplies were delivered to the school by Thursday. According to Essa, the school, which also had a long-standing contract with supplier J&T, has 1 140 pupils, all of whom rely on the school meals.

Basil Manuel, Forest Hill Primary principal and KwaZulu-Natal chair of Naptosa (National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA) told The Witness his school, which usually feeds about 850 pupils, had to rely on limited handouts from a local Lions Club and appeal to parents to try to provide some food for their children.

“I’m told this is happening throughout the province,” said Manuel. “It is not my primary function — to be concerned about children not being fed — but if our children are hungry, it becomes my responsibility.”

Education Department spokeswoman Mbali Thusi told The Witness that delays in feeding the children were the result of “the long process of granting loans” [by Ithala] to co-operatives, despite assurances that the loans would be ready for the co-operatives to start feeding on October 5. She said food has been delivered in most districts. According to Thusi, 12 schools in the uMgungundlovu area are to be fed by the new co-operative.

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