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‘New high court order victory for pupils’

Advocacy groups have welcomed a new court order compelling the department of basic education to provide pupils with meals even when schools are closed due to the pandemic

The court order is a victory for learners’ rights to basic nutrition, basic education, equality and dignity, the groups said.
The court order is a victory for learners’ rights to basic nutrition, basic education, equality and dignity, the groups said.
Image: Nigel Louw

Advocacy groups have welcomed a new court order compelling the department of basic education to provide pupils with meals even when schools are closed due to the pandemic.

In a joint statement this week, Equal Education (EE) and Section27 said the high court order was a victory for pupils.

“The high court has ordered the department of basic education (DBE) and provincial education departments to develop new plans to feed the over nine million learners that depend on the national school nutrition programme (NSNP), even when schools are closed because of Covid-19 or learners are at home because of rotating timetables. 

“This court order is a victory for learners’ rights to basic nutrition, basic education, equality and dignity. We are hopeful that the new plans that the DBE and provincial education departments have been ordered to develop to improve the rollout of the NSNP can guarantee that it reaches every single learner who qualifies for it.”

The new order came after EE and two Limpopo school governing bodies, represented by Section27 and the Equal Education Law Centre, went back to court over the failure of the DBE and eight MECs across the country to provide pupils with meals.

This despite a judgment handed down in the matter last year.

“We went back to the court to get the education departments to submit progress reports on the rollout of the NSNP, like the 2020 court order told them to do but which they have failed to do since March 2021. We also asked the court  to tell education officials to develop and implement practical and realistic plans for the NSNP which respond to the new realities of schooling during Covid-19, and for monthly reports to be submitted  on the implementation of these plans. 

“The situation became more and more urgent, with qualifying learners not being able to get meals because of barriers such as not having scholar transport and poor communication from education officials with school communities. The mental, physical and financial affect that food insecurity has on learners and their families is tragic, and unacceptable.”

The advocacy groups said the DBE and provincial departments “proposed that we negotiate a legal settlement”.

“On 20 July 2021, the settlement agreement was made an order of court. This agreement contains clear commitments for the existing systems for the delivery of the NSNP to be revised, and for reasonable time frames for implementation,” the statement said.

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