Education activists are taking government to court for allegedly backtracking on the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).
Child rights group, Equal Education and school governing bodies (SGBs) from two Limpopo schools have launched an urgent application in the High Court in Pretoria over the Basic Department of Education and Provincial Education Departments’ failure to roll-out the nutrition programme to all learners as previously promised.
Government, through the NSP, provides meals to over 9 million learners countrywide. However the programme was put on hold when schools went on recess during the coronavirus lockdown, which began on March 27, 2020.
In the video below, COVID-19 Lockdown affects learners’ school nutrition programme:
Following talks with government in late May, Section 27 and Equal Education said the Department of Basic Education had promised that it would reinstate the nutrition programme to all eligible learners when schools reopened for grades 7 and 12 on June 1.
The department however changed tune when the schools reopened, saying it only had the intention to provide the meals to all eligible learners at a later stage, but would for the time being provide food to grade 7 and 12 pupils.
“The DBE’s Standard Operating Procedures on COVID-19 make provision for the roll-out of NSNP to occur in a safe and hygienic manner. The DBE has provided no reasonable justification for its limitation of the NSNP to only grades 7 and 12 learners. The current disaster does not serve as a basis to deprive learners of their right to nutrition, and the DBE’s failure to direct provinces to roll-out the NSNP for all eligible learners disproportionally affects learners from poor and working class families,” Equal Education and the SGBs say in a joint statement.
The group says increased Child Support Grant or COVID-19 special economic mitigation measures were insufficient relief for some families. The activists say they have received “gravely” concerning testimonies from learners, caregivers, educators and SGB members about the dire hardship faced by children across the country in the absence of the NSNP.
Equal Education says the delay in reinstating the programme for all learners violates their constitutional rights to basic nutrition, basic education and equality, which must be protected even during a time of National State of Disaster.
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