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Rotten feeding scheme - contractors blamed for supplies

risky: The feeding scheme at Makeke Primary School has been discontinued after 271 pupils who ate meals there on Monday were rushed to two hospitals PHOTO: NIGEL LOUW
risky: The feeding scheme at Makeke Primary School has been discontinued after 271 pupils who ate meals there on Monday were rushed to two hospitals PHOTO: NIGEL LOUW

SOME unscrupulous contractors have been supplying food with no expiry dates or that does not meet the requirements of the national school nutrition programme to rural Limpopo schools.

The revelation is contained in a memorandum sent out by the Limpopo department of education to the Sekhukhune region last month.

This was after scores of pupils in the district were hospitalised after eating supplied food.

Sowetan has learnt that the memo, signed by district senior manager G Nkadimeng, was about tightening the monitoring of the national school nutrition programme.

It was addressed to school principals, circuit managers and the programme's monitors in the Sekhukhune district.

The latest incident happened on Monday when 271 pupils at Makeke Primary School at Lukau village were taken to hospital after eating food that had pieces of glass.

The memo calls for strict monitoring of suppliers following daily reports of pupils "finding inferior objects in their servings, especially [in] beans".

It confirms that there have been genuine reports of pupils finding foreign objects in their food but others had been "pranks" by pupils.

"In more than one school learners have disclosed that they did bring the pieces of glass to school in order to force their parents to give them pocket money. We expect more of these hoaxes."

The memo states that the district has been "under siege" since the department decided to allocate the programme to larger companies instead of small businesses.

The memo describes the suppliers as arrogant and not complying with service agreements.

It says suppliers have been delivering food such as soya mixed with pasta which is not included on a 2014 menu by the department of basic education as part of the meals that should be served to pupils in Limpopo.

The memo further states that suppliers refuse to replace food that schools are not satisfied with, and that they do not answer their phones when deliveries are not made or are insufficient.

It emphasises that the programme is about pupils being fed and not about suppliers making money.

"Principals are not expected to allow any action from any supplier that compromises the objective of learners being 'fed nutritious meals on all school days'," it reads.

"Circuits should not compromise learners by allowing principals to accommodate any of the above factors that put the district under siege.

The memo also mentioned that suppliers deliver food at places other than the schools. These include homes of school governing body members. They also leave the food at school gates.

Principals have been instructed to turn back food of inferior quality from suppliers instead of putting pupils' health at risk.

Last Thursday, the department of basic education terminated the contracts of Karabo Amandla and Dingatana, who were allegedly implicated in the cases of children falling sick. Tumelo Nthulwane of Dingatana did not respond to questions. Inderesen Pakkiri of Karabo Amandla referred Sowetan to his lawyers who did not respond.


Cooks fear for lives after pupils fall ill

COOKS at Makeke Primary School in Sekhukhune, Limpopo, fear for their lives following the suspected food poisoning that led to more than 200 children being hospitalised.

Pupils complained of stomach aches and began vomiting after they ate a meal of pap, beans and pumpkin prepared by women in the community on Monday.

A total of 271 children were rushed to two hospitals in the area and were later discharged. Only one child remained in hospital.

One of the cooks and the mother of one of the affected pupils, who did not want to be named, said she was struggling to sleep at night following the incident.

"I fear that someone can come to my house and do something [to hurt her and her family].

"People have been making threats - even young children. They talk about us when we walk in the streets," she said.

She was also concerned because her child also ate the food and was treated and released.

Another cook said she ate the food but did not react as severely as the children did. She went to a clinic where she was given medication and was now fine.

"We are worried and scared. Where would we [the cooks] be if something worse had happened then," she asked.

"We cook for them well and we were also shocked about what happened. We fear for our safety. People talk all sorts of things. Some of the parents accepted what happened while others are still angry."

School governing body (SGB) chairman Peter Mokganyetsi said parents decided to stop the feeding scheme until they received a report from the education department about what had happened.

This would be a huge blow to some children as this is the only meal they get for the day.

"Some of them come to school because there is food," Mokganyetsi said.

He said although they knew that some of the families could not afford lunch for their children, they had no choice but to suspend the feeding scheme because they feared for the pupils' lives.

He said cooking for the children was not an option, but the SGB would try to assist the children who were unable to bring lunch.

Mokganyetsi said the children ate the food at about 9.30am and he received a call from the principal at around 11am saying 20 children had fallen ill.

"When I arrived at the school we called an ambulance which took 10 children to the hospital. The number kept increasing and we called the hospital, which sent a bus that carried 37 children.

"The number continued to increase and the bus came back several times to collect the children," he said.


Tainted meals lead to young pupils hospitalisation

IN RECENT months pupils have been hospitalised after eating food served at school.

These are some of the latest incidences where pupils have fallen victim to the school feeding scheme:

lOn Monday, 275 pupils from Makeke Primary School in Lukau village, in the Sekhukhune district of Limpopo, were hospitalised after eating food that had pieces of glass;

lMore than 150 pupils from Kwema Tshwena Primary School in Ridgefontein, also in Limpopo, were taken to hospitals earlier this month after they found crushed glass in their food;

lLast month, 203 pupils from Koster Intermediate School in North West were hospitalised after eating tainted samp and beans;

lPupils at Ntaki Primary School in Sekhukhune, Limpopo, were taken to hospital last month when they started vomiting blood after eating food they were served at school; and

lIn September, 360 pupils from Maserala Primary School at Tshehlwaneng village, again in Limpopo, near Jane Furse, had to be taken to hospital for observation after discovering pieces of broken glass and stones in their food. -

Bongekile Macupe

Salmonella found in school food

THE North West department of education has revealed that samp and beans consumed by Koster Intermediate School pupils had traces of salmonella bacteria.

Department spokesman Brian Setswambung said two doctors confirmed that the salmonella would not cause permanent damage because even though it attacked the intestine, it was controlled within a specific period.

This was after a total number of 203 pupils from the school were admitted to hospital after complaining about stomach cramps, headaches and vomiting.

After the incident the school was shut down but parents agreed to send their children back, agreeing to pack lunch boxes until the test results were released.

The incident also claimed the life of four-year-old Ditiro Khoni, who ate the food leftovers that his mother had brought home on that day.

His mother, Maria Khoni, said the postmortem results stated that her son died as a result of food poisoning.

Setswambung said the National Institute for Communicable Diseases indicated that the final report might be available tomorrow.

He said health inspectors would fumigate the kitchen where food was stored and cooked.

"Sanitation in schools should be improved; small issues such as washing hands using running water must be implemented and improper disposal of chemicals in schools must be considered," Setswambung said.

He said all food handlers were to be screened and trained.

Boitumelo Tshehle North West Correspondent



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