The Democratic Alliance (DA) rejects threats by unions to drag the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, and her Department to court in order to stop the reopening of schools. This will not only deprive millions of learners of necessary schooling but will also deny 9 million learners on the national school nutrition programme a nutritious meal per day.
On 29 May, Minister Motshekga announced that school nutrition will be available to all learners when schools open on 1 June 2020 for grades 7 and 12. The re-scheduling of school opening a week later, have put a damper on food provision at schools.
9 million learners in 19950 quintiles 1 to 3 schools, as well as identified special needs schools are provided with daily meals through this programme.
The Minister of Social Development who was tasked with feeding learners during the lockdown has failed dismally to do so. The few food parcels provided by the Department of Social Development has not reached the neediest households and are not providing learners with the necessary nutrients.
Approximately 30% already live in households in which only one person is employed and with the advent of Covid-19 dietary diversity may be reduced, leading to malnutrition which can increase the risk of micro-nutrient deficiencies. Younger children can experience nutritional shock resulting in increased wasting and stunting that can have long – term effects on health and educational outcomes.
During this period of lockdown, the Western Cape provincial treasury allocated R18 million in additional funding to the Western Cape Education Department towards a feeding scheme for children. On average 100 000 children were fed every week. Progressive initiatives like these should be encouraged which ensure the well-being of every child.
Children are not the vectors of spreading the disease, so what is the trade –off in putting their future in jeopardy? Educator unions should consider the inequality gaps in societies and realise that most children don’t have the luxury of a proper meal especially during lockdown.
The Minister has already gazetted the return date to school and she should follow through with her plan to open schools tomorrow for the livelihoods of the 9 million learners whose nutrition is compromised because of the lockdown.
We cannot allow educator unions to use the Covid-19 pandemic as a guise to take over control of ministerial duties, compromising the education and holistic well-being of our children.