Premier asked to solve school food scheme row

PARENTS of pupils at Modika Secondary School at Khekhutini village in Bolobedu, Limpopo, have called on Premier Cassel Mathale to intervene in a dispute over a nutritional programme for secondary schools in the area.

They say Mathale should use his authority as head of the provincial government to instruct the department of education to remove the school from quintile 4 to quintile 1 or 2.

They claim this will allow the school to qualify for a feeding scheme.

Schools are classified in five categories according to the poverty levels in which they are situated. Schools in quintile 1 are in the poorest communities, while those in affluent communities are in quintiles 4 and 5.

The school has allegedly failed to qualify for a nutrition programme for secondary schools although "it is located in a rural area where people live in dire poverty".

The school is on quintile 4. This means that it did not qualify for the nutritional programme for secondary schools which started in April. The authorities also claim that they had no money to pay food suppliers.

Three months ago, parents threatened to withdraw their children from Modika because "they did not see any changes coming soon".

Rakwadu circuit manager David Sethaba said they had tried to engage the provincial education department to change the school's quintile without success.

"That is why we would like to support the parents' call for Premier Mathale to intervene because the children are suffering as they attend lessons on empty stomachs," he said.

Sethaba said the school might find itself without pupils next year if something was not done to deal with the nutrition problem.

He also indicated that there were other schools, such as the nearby Tshweni Secondary School, which also face similar problems.

Sethaba added that the parents of pupils at Tshweni have threatened to withdraw their children and enrol them in other schools where there were feeding schemes and very poor parents were not liable to pay school fees.

The 263 pupils at Modika said that their future looks bleak because they cannot concentrate on empty stomachs.

Operating with very limited resources, Modika has managed to produce a 73percent matric pass rate in last year's examinations.

Ndo Mangala, Limpopo education spokesman, said: "The department was unaware that the school had been placed under quintile 4. The school must contact the department to have this matter sorted out."