Poor children go hungry at Eastern Cape school

Mvuyo Mati

Mvuyo Mati

About 400 pupils from a poor Eastern Cape community have been without food at school since May.

Wandile Ralani, the principal of the Mzamowethu Public School in East London, said the pupils had not received the primary school nutrition programme (PSNP) for the past six months. The packs stopped after the department switched to another service provider.

Ralani accused education officials of not intervening, despite repeated complaints from the school and the community.

He also said that though other schools had received cooking utensils, his school had received nothing until an official delivered a few utensils last Wednesday.

He said only children from grade R to grade 3 were eligible to benefit from the feeding programme.

The PSNP came under fire three months ago when Premier Nosimo Balindlela ordered the provincial Education Department to ensure that all school children were fed.

Spokesman Loyiso Pulumani said the department was not aware that the Mzamowethu pupils had not been receiving school food.

He acknowledged there had been a dispute with the community over who was best suited to provide nutrition to the pupils.

The community had insisted that this was their school and that no one else should do the job except them.

Pulumani added that his department had advised the community to follow proper tendering procedures.

He said that his department was under the impression that the dispute had been settled, and that the cooperative concerned had been delivering the food.

But Ralani denied this: "There has never been an agreement between the community and the cooperative to feed the children," he said.

Pulumani said the principal should submit a report to the district and provincial government explaining why the children were not being fed and that an official from the district office would brief the service provider. If the school's claim was accurate, it would be a serious breach of contract by the service provider.

Education MEC Mkhangeli Matomela has warned that the department would terminate the contracts of cooperatives who continually failed to feed children.