- An Equal Education survey reveals many pupils are still going hungry on days they can’t afford to travel to school.
- EE wants the Education Department to provide food parcels or vouchers in these instances.
- The Limpopo education department says it can’t take responsibility for transporting pupils within walking distance of their school.
Tracy* is preparing for her final Grade 11 exams at Mmatshipi Secondary School in Mashashane, Limpopo. On days that her grade is scheduled to have classes, she walks about 10km from her village to Mmatshipi.
Tracy asked that we withhold her real name because she fears being victimised by her peers.
She told GroundUp that because both her parents are unemployed and battle to put food on the table, often the only meal she gets for the day is at school.
"I come from a poor family. Other learners can afford to drive back to fetch meals when we are not at school that week. I can not travel that distance only to fetch food only as it is tiring," she said.
Tracy was one of 192 pupils in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, and the Western Cape who participated in a survey by Equal Education (EE) in October.
The snap survey aimed to find out whether qualifying pupils were receiving meals daily.
Of those surveyed, 143 said they attended school in rotation. Most of these pupils said they did not get a meal on days when they are not at school.
Tracy was one of the 62 qualifying pupils in Limpopo who are not getting meals daily because they could not afford travel costs. All 62 pupils told EE that they went hungry on days they were not at school.
According to a report from the Department of Basic Education in October, about 1.8 million learners were falling through the cracks and still not receiving meals. About 19 000 schools benefit from the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).
In August, the North Gauteng High Court ordered Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga to roll out the school feeding scheme for about nine million pupils immediately, whether or not they were attending school. The case was brought by EE and the school governing bodies of two schools.
Now activists are urging the government to assist pupils who are unable to get their meals because they can’t afford to travel to school for this purpose alone. EE, Equal Education Law Centre, and Section 27 have recommended that the department arrange food parcels or vouchers for pupils.
They also want pupils to be reminded that meals can also be collected at schools closest to where they live.
Tidimalo Chuene from the Limpopo Department of Education said pupil transport only caters for those who are not within walking distance of schools.
"In cases where a learner was taken to a school of choice, then the responsibility is still with parents/caregivers to get them to school, as was the case even before the use of differentiated timetables," she said.
Chuene said that as of 9 September 2020, 44 000 pupils were benefitting from the scholar transport programme in the province.
She did not provide further comment on the findings of EE’s survey.
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