OPINION: ‘Many KZN pupils still go hungry’

DEAR Editor,-

KwaZulu-Natal Education MEC, Mthandeni Dlungwana and certain ANC members of the province’s Education Portfolio Committee’s comments that the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) is not in crisis are laughable.

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Last week during an education portfolio committee meeting, the MEC emphatically denied that thousands of children at some of KwaZulu-Natal’s poorer schools, predominantly in rural areas, are going hungry, going so far as to challenge the DA to present the names of such schools.

The DA has identified six schools where children have not received a single meal since the start of the school term almost two weeks ago. They are:-

* George Mbhele High School in Fairview Mission near Hibberdene on the South Coast;

* Inala Primary School, also in Fairview Mission;

* Maqhutshana High School in Botha’s Hill;

* Gadokuwayo Primary in Umhlabuyalingana;

* Libuyile Primary in Umhlabuyalingana, and

* Ubehlebemvelo Primary in Khula Village near Mtubatuba

The most heart-wrenching account is from the parent of a gr 10 pupil at Maqhutshana High whose child is struggling to concentrate during school as a result of hunger. She is also battling to stay focused during late afternoon extra lessons offered by the school. These lessons were implemented to improve academic outcomes however, many pupils at this school are no longer attending as they are hungry.

As the political head of this department, the MEC must take responsibility for the mess that the NSNP has become in KwaZulu-Natal. He has, through action or inaction, allowed this matter to deteriorate to an unacceptable level.

It is clear that the Department has not conducted any kind of audit into the matter. Given this, ANC members of the education portfolio committee have a duty to undertake oversight in their own constituencies to identify affected schools before casting aspersions at the DA.

The DA reported these schools to MEC Dlungwane. We expect him to take urgent action to ensure that these pupils are fed. We also sincerely hope that continued action by the provincial treasury, in terms of the tender process, will see this matter dealt with, with the bidding process referred to its own internal audit team.

The National School Nutrition Programme is a vitally important programme and it cannot be allowed to fail. A hungry child cannot learn properly. The DA is committed to ensuring that pupils are not robbed of educational opportunities due to hunger.


DA KZN Spokesperson on Education


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