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Pupils not getting school meals because transport costs too much

Volunteers at Rantshu Primary School Charlotte Maboya and Emily Nokeri clean pots and plates after the 10am meal.
Volunteers at Rantshu Primary School Charlotte Maboya and Emily Nokeri clean pots and plates after the 10am meal.
Image: Bernard Chiguvare/GroundUp

For some pupils in Limpopo, transport to collect food at school costs more than the meal itself.

“Parents feel it is not economical to pay R20 to collect food from school. They prefer using the R20 to buy food rather than using it for transport,” said Francis Maluleke, school governing body chairperson at Rantshu Primary School in Mashashane.

When GroundUp visited, two volunteers who prepare meals for those at school were cleaning plates and large pots in a makeshift kitchen after the 10am break time. They explained that meals differ from day to day and typically include vegetables, rice, porridge, pumpkins and samp.

The department of education provides a food budget of R3.10 per pupil per day for primary schools and R3.59 for secondary school pupils.

Maluleke said at least 40 of the school’s 211 pupils did not receive meals regularly, as some lived as far as 8km from the school. He said they had been asking for scholar transport so that pupils who live far away can also benefit from the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).

Last month the court ordered education minister Angie Motshekga to roll out the school feeding scheme for about 9 million pupils immediately, whether or not they are attending school.

Hopolang Selebalo, co-head of research at Equal Education (EE), said that it was the responsibility of provincial education departments to ensure that all eligible pupils are able to collect hot meals or food parcels.

“The order of the North Gauteng High Court compels it to fulfil this responsibility. In papers filed with the court, the Limpopo education department committed to provide transport to learners so that they can receive meals from their schools.

“It is cruel to deny learners meals because the cost of travelling to school is more than the meal. In circumstances where schools are unable to provide learners with hot meals every day, then weekly food parcels should be provided to them,” said Selebalo.

EE Law Centre attorney Sipho Mzakwe said: “In terms of the court order, the DBE [department of basic education] is obligated to ensure that every qualifying learner is provided with a meal through the NSNP.

“If the provision of scholar transport is the only option that will ensure that learners who are at home also receive their meals, I will argue that the DBE has an obligation to provide scholar transport, even to schools that are currently not the beneficiaries of scholar transport.”

Matamela Matanga, director of special projects at the provincial education department, promised to investigate whether pupils at Rantshu are eligible for scholar transport. He told GroundUp that the school was currently not on its scholar transport list.

This article was originally published by GroundUp

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