'Fundamental flaws' in dept's plan to roll out school nutrition programme - NGOs

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Civil society organisations have been feeding children.
Civil society organisations have been feeding children.
Brenton Geach, GroundUp
  • The basic education department was forced to reinstate the National School Nutrition Programme, after suspending it when the lockdown started.
  • A court ordered the department to submit a plan within 10 days on how meals would be rolled out to beneficiaries.
  • But Equal Education and Section27 believe the plan contains loopholes.

Plans to roll out the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) contain loopholes and lack detail, NGOs Equal Education and Section27 say.

The NGOs believe Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga's plan is not "clear and logical" and can't be implemented immediately.

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In July, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ordered the department to roll out the programme to eligible children, regardless of whether they had returned to school or not, News24 previously reported.

Equal Education was among the applicants in the matter, and Motshekga and her provincial MECs were respondents. The court also granted a supervisory interdict, directing Motshekga and the MECs to file detailed plans and programmes for the resumption of the programme within 10 days. The due date was 31 July. 

The respondents were also ordered to update the court every 15 days to prove that the plans were being implemented.  

Eight provincial MECs missed the deadline to submit their plan. Instead, they submitted it earlier this week.

The Western Cape MEC, who had not stopped the programme, was not included in the order.

The organisations said they have since written to Motshekga to express their "deep disappointment" with the quality of the plan that she submitted to the court last Friday, 31 July. 

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"The plan already makes excuses that there won't be enough money to continue to roll out the NSNP in November and December, but does not mention how her department will solve this.

"Because Minister Motshekga's plan lacks many important details and does not meet the necessary standards, we have asked her to fix her plan by Friday 7 August. As school communities and as citizens, we demand better from those whose duty it is to uphold the Constitution and to serve us, and who claim to be able to govern," Equal Education and Section27 said in a joint statement.

The plan, dated 31 July, was submitted in an affidavit form and in it Motshekga said the department had already put in place a review of a business plan that would ensure budgets were allocated for the provision of meals to pupils, as the court had ordered.

She said the reviewed business plan would be finalised by 20 August, adding that the purpose for the review was to allow the use of savings incurred in April and May.

"In this regard, I must also report that the business planning process to date has determined that there are possibilities of budget inadequacy on the provision of food parcels during the latter months of the year (November and December 2020).

"This is due to the fact that the average NSNP meal cost per month is R63, creating a shortfall of more than R100 when compared to the unit cost for a monthly food parcel offered by the Department of Social Development. It is anticipated that with further closure of schools, as announced by the President, Mr C Ramaphosa, on 23 July 2020, there will be an increase in the number of learners that will need food parcels," Motshekga added.

Motshekga also submitted that different provinces were in the process of providing draft business plans that included the feeding of pupils as per the court order.

The minister said:

The menu calculator was developed in conjunction with the Feed, Uplift, Educate and Love NGO, to enable food quantities flexibility when meals are prepared. This is in response to the fact that not all expected learners have returned to schools and that learners are allowed to receive meals from any closest school.

Motshekga must remedy the identified defects

In a letter to Motshekga, dated 3 August, Equal Education and Section27 expressed that they were concerned about "fundamental flaws" in her affidavit as well the annexures to it.

They argued that Motshekga's affidavit did not constitute a reasonable, coherent and comprehensive plan and programme that was capable of being implemented. 

The organisations also stated that there was no plan for the predicted budget shortfall toward the end of the year.

"Second, the affidavit refers to budgetary constraints toward the end of the year but provides no indication of how this will be dealt with to ensure that all qualifying learners receive a daily meal in compliance with government's constitutional and statutory commitments, and the order made by the court.

"And third, the instructions to MECs with regard to reports on the implementation of the NSNP do not appear to be in accordance with the requirements of the court order."

The organisations asked Motshekga to remedy the defects they identified in her next report, as required by the court order. 

Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told News24 that Motshekga had received the letter and was processing it. He added that a response would be provided to the organisations.

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