Court rules in favour of 9 million hungry children

a child eating his school meal

Department of Basic Education taken to court over school nutrition programme. Picture: African News Agency (ANA).

More than 9 million children will once again enjoy a daily nutritious meal, regardless of whether they have returned to school or not, thanks to the North Gauteng High Court’s ruling on Friday.

Judge Sulet Potterill ruled that the Department of Basic Education (DBE) must roll out the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) to all eligible children without delay, regardless of whether they have returned to school or not.

This comes after education rights organisation, Equal Education (EE) lodged an urgent application in early July, in which it argued that all eligible children should receive their daily meals from the programme.

According to the court judgment provided by Section27, the court handed down both a declaratory and supervisory order and stated that Minister Angie Motshekga had breached her constitutional and statutory duty.

“It is declared that the first respondent (the Minister) is under a constitutional and statutory duty to ensure that the NSNP provides a daily meal to all qualifying learners, to ensure the proper exercise of the rights of learners to education and to enhance their learning capacity. 

“Whether they are attending school or studying away from school as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is declared that the Minister is in breach of that duty.”

The nine provincial education MECs were also ordered to comply with the NSNP ruling and were declared in breach of their constitutional duty.

In a media statement, EE said the court ordered the minister and education MECs to file detailed plans and programmes for the resumption of the NSNP to all eligible pupils within 10 days.

“Thereafter, the minister and the MECs will be required to file updates with the court every 15 days to prove that the plans to provide meals to learners are actually being implemented,” EE added in the statement. 

“We celebrate this victory for the over 9 million learners in South Africa who depend on the NSNP for a nutritious meal every day, and for the many learners and caregivers who put their testimonies before the court.”

The NSNP is a government programme that provides nutritious meals to all learners in poorer primary and secondary schools. 

The objective is to provide nutritious meals to learners to improve their ability to learn. 

According to DBE’s 2013/14 annual report, the programme had reached more than 9 million learners in quintile 1, 2 and 3 schools.

The programme also teaches learners and parents how to lead a healthy lifestyle, and promotes development of school vegetable gardens.