The Western Cape Department of Education has come under fire following its decision to go it alone by launching an R18 million feeding school programme in the province during the national lockdown.
Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, said she was concerned that the provincial department of education MEC Debbie Schafer, as well as the Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, are continuing with the feeding school programme despite the President Cyril Ramaphosa having declared a national lockdown.
Mbinqo-Gigaba said members of the public in the Western Cape have raised concerns regarding social distancing in the province.
Mbinqo-Gigaba said many people questioned Schafer’s decision to go ahead with the school feeding scheme even after Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga made it clear that the department will not be able to continue with the feeding programme as this will contravene social distancing rules put in place by Ramaphosa.
“I will write to Minister Motshekga requesting further information about this deviation of the agreed plan regarding the NSNP, and as well as requesting information on how people can be allowed to enter school premises during a national lockdown, risking exposing many to the virus,” said Mbinqo-Gigaba.
“As a caring nation that understands the plight of the poor, we have the greatest of empathy with those less fortunate. But at the same time, the health of our nation is also at stake and therefore assisting families in need, as part of the comprehensive country’s plan, is now not the responsibility of the education department.”
The special school feeding programme in the Western Cape is running from April 8 until April 20.
Schafer said the department is working with service providers to ensure that children who normally qualify for the national school feeding programme received their meals during the lockdown.
“The National School Nutrition Programme feeds about 483,000 of our poorer learners. We need to get to as many learners as possible in this very difficult time,” said Schafer.
Soon after the national lockdown was announced, Motshekga handed over the school nutrition functions to Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu.