Eight provincial ministers miss court deadline for school feeding scheme reports

Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
  • Eight MECs failed to file reports as ordered by the courts on their plans to implement the National Schools Nutrition Programme in their provinces.
  • Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga filed her report, but NGO Equal Education was unhappy with her plans.
  • Nine million pupils qualify for the programme which abruptly stopped in March when schools closed as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Eight provincial education MECs have missed the deadline to report to the High Court on their plans and their progress in reintroducing the schools feeding scheme.

Judge Sulet Potterill had ordered the ministers to immediately roll out the programme to all nine million qualifying pupils, irrespective of whether they were back in their classrooms. The Western Cape was excluded as it had not suspended the programme.

The court gave the MECs 10 days to report back with a plan and programme showing what steps have been taken to get at least one nutritious meal to the pupils, and update the court on progress every 15 days after that, until the court declared that it was no longer necessary.

None of the eight provincial ministers submitted reports to the court.

OPINION | The desperate hunger of children should be the barometer of a failing government

Basic Education Minister Angie Mtoshekga filed her report on Friday, as instructed by the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on 17 June, but Equal Education (EE) was critical of it.

"We are disappointed in the document filed by Minister Motshekga, which we don't consider to adequately represent any forward planning," said EE head of communications Leanne Jansen-Thomas.

"We are seeking the advice of our legal counsel on next steps. We’re unable to say any more than that at this stage."

The purpose of the reports was to enable the court to monitor and evaluate the plans for the implementation of the National Schools Nutrition Programme in each province.

Grant

In her report, Motshekga said the programme was funded through a conditional grant. She had therefore consulted with Treasury to amend its conditions to accommodate the situation under the Covid-19 pandemic so that meals could be provided to pupils not at school.

"Funds from the grant can now be spent on providing meals to learners in far-flung areas through alternative means at a minimum of R170 nutritious food items per learner per month," she said.

The minister said she had also begun the process of reviewing the business plan to allow for the use of savings, generated in April and May, when schools were closed and meals were not provided.

READ | Nine million hungry children: We ask Section27 five questions about school feeding scheme

However, she said, the possibility exists that there would still be a budget shortfall because of an increase in need, and she had requested additional funding from Treasury.

She detailed meetings she had held with provincial managers and coordinators at which there were discussions around providing pupils not at school, with food parcels.

Provinces have submitted initial plans on feeding pupils and were in the process of drafting business plans, she said.

A "menu calculator" had been developed that allowed for flexibility, so that food could be prepared and not wasted at schools which don't know how many pupils would pitch up. It also catered for situations where pupils would collect meals from the schools closest to them, not the schools they usually attended.

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