Msinga pupils starving

2016-01-14 11:49

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Pietermaritzburg - More than 260 pupils at Msinga High School, a project school in Tugela Ferry, went hungry on their first day of the 2016 academic year because the Education Department failed to appoint a caterer for the boarding establishment.

The boarders, who are from deep rural areas around the province, arrived at school on Tuesday evening and went to bed without dinner.

Msinga School Governing Body chairperson Siphiwe Ngubane said the pupils were also not given breakfast or lunch yesterday.

“The children are hungry and they are looking drowsy in the classrooms. We continued with lessons but we were really stressed about them not eating and we have been running around to our circuit and district managers all day,” he said.

Ngubane said the teachers and school governing body members had rallied and raised funds in the early af-ternoon to prepare “at least one meal” for the children.

“This is a project school, so everything such as bedding, toiletries, transport and food is provided by the Department of Education. We arrived at school and found that no catering company was appointed and now the children are starving,” he said.

Last year, the school was appointed a catering company for only three months and was told that a tender process had begun to appoint a new, full-time catering company, said Ngubane.

“It is unfair to keep the children hungry.”

Yesterday’s fundraising effort collected R800, which enabled a meal of mince, potatoes and rice to be prepared for the pupils.

“This is the most we could afford but we had to do something as we received no word from the department on whether we could close the school,” added Ngubane.

He said school principal Sphelele Xaba had considered closing the school until a catering company was appointed, but needed approval from the department to do so.

Ngubane said it had been an “uphill battle” since the department started their project at the school in 2009.

He said the school was forced to close for a month last year as the electricity was cut off.

“In addition, toiletries that were given to the pupils were reduced, and so was the security. Currently we only have two security guards deployed to the school,” Ngubane added.

He said the teachers were feeling “demoralised” by the situation. However, they had nevertheless worked exceptionally hard through the difficult times last year and produced a 45% matric pass rate.

“The children who board here come from very far away and they do not come from rich backgrounds. There was a promise by the department to look after them and educate them, but we are failing these children if we cannot even give them a plate of food,” said Ngubane.

Education Department spokesperson Sihle Mlotshwa said the school would not close and that they had arranged for meals for the children.

“The challenge has since been sorted and the service provider [a catering company] will start on Monday,” he said.

The department would ensure that the children were fed until then, said Mlotshwa.

• kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  school

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