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Coronavirus – South Africa: Western Cape Education on implementing school feeding of vulnerable learners during Coronavirus COVID-19 lockdown

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The Western Cape Government has been working hard to find a solution that would ensure that our learners who normally receive school meals during term time do not go hungry during this extended school closure and lockdown.  

We have now been allocated emergency funding from the Province in order to support our learners who ordinarily receive school feeding during term time over the next two weeks.

As it stands, the school closure declared by the President is an extended holiday, with the ‘lost’ teaching days due to be made up during the rest of the year. We were thus unable to use our existing National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) funding to assist during the lockdown, as we need these funds to continue feeding learners when the ‘lost’ days are made up later.

We have been working with our Department of Social Development, and agreed that, if we could obtain the additional funding, we would be able to provide meals to as many of our NSNP learners as we can during this uncertain time.

On Friday 2 April, our head of Department wrote to school principals asking that they prepare for the reintroduction of school feeding as early as this week.

There are many things to consider. This is a very complex process to activate while schools are still closed for learners. Some of these considerations include:

  • Learners that do not necessarily go to their nearest school and travel instead, by choice, to schools outside of their neighbourhood, but still require feeding
  • Rural learners that live far from their schools
  • Social distancing while collecting meals
  • The distribution of takeaway meals or food parcels, and the safety of learners travelling home with food parcels.
  • Safety of feeding volunteers
  • The issuing of permits for travel of volunteers and school staff required to manage the process

These are just a few of the challenges that we face and which affect the decisions that need to be made within the next few days on reintroducing the scheme. There might be some variances at local level and this flexibility is required to ensure we reach as many of our vulnerable learners as possible.

Districts will communicate with schools as plans per school are being finalized. This includes the days of distribution at the various schools. In most cases it is expected that schools will feed on Wednesday and Friday in the week starting 6 April, and on the Tuesday and Friday in the week starting 13 April. However, some schools might wish to feed daily on week days from Wednesday 8 April. This decision will be taken by individual schools and communicated to their school communities, depending on circumstances on the ground.

It is not intended that learners will sit down at schools and eat, but will collect the food in containers that they will be asked to bring with them. The implementation will be mindful of the need for social distancing during the lockdown period, which is essential if we are to #StopTheSpread of the coronavirus.

We look forward to working with schools and service providers in this regard. This is a time when we need to stand together as a province and as a country in protecting those among us who need extra help. 

The School Nutrition Programme feeds approximately 483 000 of our poorer learners. We need to get to as many learners as possible in this very difficult time.

I want to express my deep appreciation to the 1 010 principals and those staff and food preparers who will be assisting in this humanitarian task to address the hunger challenges of many learners.

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