School meals scheme chaos

2017-08-01 14:03
Hungry Grade 1 pupils in tears; schools ask fro clarity from government; department won't comment.

Hungry Grade 1 pupils in tears; schools ask fro clarity from government; department won't comment. (File)

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The KZN Department of Education has been accused of violating a court interdict ordering it to bar its newly appointed contractors from operating feeding schemes across the province’s schools.

This after claims that the newly appointed contractors reported to various schools in contravention of last Friday’s court ruling.

The court order stipulated that current service providers, whose contracts expired last month, be allowed to continue feeding pupils pending the outcome of a court application by disgruntled service providers who lost out in the tender process.

Thulani Myeza of the Delangokubona Business Forum, which represents some of the current service providers, claimed that new contractors had started operating. “We’ve asked Treasury to step in and assist seeing as the Department of Education is undermining the court order. We are also confused. The biggest challenge is our members were told to go to their schools as usual, but when they arrived they found new contractors already working.”

The KZN Department of Education has opted to remain mum on the matter, saying it is sub judice. “We are not going to divulge any information to the media as the matter is before the courts.

“Once it has been dealt with in court we will inform the public of the outcome,” said KZN Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi.

A current contractor at one of the schools in Pietermaritzburg said he was very upset that the department had chosen to go against the court interdict. “There were so many irregularities in the tender process. Most of the new contractors awarded tenders are not even registered. The entire process was flawed.”

He said after the court ruling on the weekend he bought his food supplies.

“I thought it would be business as usual today [yesterday]. I was supposed to be back at the school in the morning, but I was alerted that a new supplier had started operating. How does that happen when the ruling made it clear that we [old service providers] should continue feeding pupils? The situation is chaotic.”

A principal at one of the schools in Imbali said the feeding scheme fiasco had had a negative effect on pupils.

“Last week, Grade 1 pupils were literally in tears as they were left in the lurch. We hope the matter gets sorted out soon and things go back to normal.”

The principal said pupils were not given meals for most of last week. “The new contractor only came last Friday. He dropped off the food supplies and left.”

Another principal said there was confusion as to who was supposed to continue feeding pupils. “We are not sure who is supposed to be taking over. The new contractors were brought in but old contractors are also insisting that the court ruled in their favour. The department has remained quiet on the issue and we hope they can provide us with clarity soon.”

A member of the school governing body at Sibongamandla Primary raised concerns about the issue. “Last week we had to cut down on teaching hours. We could not keep our pupils in class while they were hungry,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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