School Meals: High Court orders NSNP to step up to the plate

School meals: High Court orders NSNP to step on the plateSchool meals. Mpumalanga School nutrition program put to the test. File photo

News that the South African Supreme Court has ordered the Department of Education (DBE) to develop new plans for its National School Nutrition Program (NSNP) around school lunches was welcomed, meaning nearly 2 million learners will not miss their daily work Meals during COVID-19.

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The verdict came Tuesday this week after two civil organizations – SECTION27 and the Equal Education Law Center (EELC) – brought the DBE to court for failing to provide meals to all qualified learners through the NSNP.

Earlier this month, Health-e News reported that officials from the Department of Education had failed to meet their contractual obligations to ensure the nutrition program was up to the challenge of providing a nutritious meal to all students in poorer elementary and secondary schools.

It was revealed that 1.5 million learners across the country had not missed a meal for almost a year during the lockdown as learners attended school on alternate days.

Court ruling “a victory for learners’ rights”

According to a joint media release from the civil organizations that monitored the implementation of the school nutrition yesterday, the court order is a welcome relief for learners.

“I am pleased with this court decision because it helps those learners who depend on school meals with school meals and they no longer have to worry when they come to school because the NSNP provides them with food. I think it’s cool that they have helped a lot of poor learners who have nothing at home, ”said Gracious, a learning member of the EELC in Limpopo.

#SchoolMealsNow! Hope in the fight against child starvation as the court orders the government to reconsider its plans for the National School Feeding Program to ensure all learners get school meals during the # COVID19 pandemic! @equal_education @EElawcentre https://t.co/iEnqO1RRmm

– SECTION27 (@ SECTION27news) July 21, 2021

You have described the decision by the Gauteng Division of the High Court as a victory for learners’ rights to basic nutrition, education, equality and dignity.

“We hope that the new plans that the DBE and eight of its provincial education departments have been tasked with to improve the implementation of the NSNP can guarantee that it will reach every single learner who qualifies,” the statement said.

SECTION27 and the EELC want education departments to provide progress reports on the introduction of the NSNP – which they have not done since March this year.

“We also asked the court to request the education officer to develop and implement practical and realistic plans for the NSNP that respond to the new realities of the school system during COVID-19, and to submit monthly reports on the implementation of those plans.”

They added: “The situation became more urgent as qualified learners were unable to get meals due to obstacles such as lack of transportation and poor communication between education officials and school communities. The psychological, physical and financial effects of food insecurity on learners and their families are tragic and unacceptable. “

The court order agreement contains a revision of the obligations for the existing systems for the delivery of the NSNP as well as reasonable implementation deadlines.

It also states that the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, and the provincial departments will formulate and implement revised rollout plans within one month of the settlement agreement being signed. This will ensure that all qualifying learners receive a daily meal through the NSNP – whether at school or at home.

Consideration of COVID-19

These new plans must take into account the challenges associated with the introduction of the NSNP during COVID-19 and ensure that every learner, regardless of the school calendar, is provided with either a hot meal or a meal package. Either schools have been closed or learners have been forced to stick to rotation timetables, which means they will be home some days.

Once submitted, monthly reports must also be submitted detailing the implementation of the revised plans, explaining whether the steps taken were successful and what further steps need to be taken and when.

The organizations said they will continue to monitor and analyze the progress reports submitted to ensure that all learners’ rights are respected. – Health-e news

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