Parliament, Wednesday, 8 April 2020 – The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Basic Education, Ms Bongiwe Mbinqo-Gigaba, today said she is concerned about media reports in which the Western Cape MEC for Education, as well as the Premier, are quoted as saying that they are continuing with the National Food Nutrition Programme (NFNP) despite the President having declared a national lockdown on schools.
Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba said she has also been receiving calls regarding this matter about the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) as members of the public have raised concerns regarding social distancing and mixed messages in a province that has so far recorded the second highest number of Covid-19 infections.
“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.”
Minister Angie Motshekga said last month that as of the sector’s plan for the lockdown of schools, the school infrastructure which consists of schools and teachers, was unable to feed children in communities during the lockdown. She further said it was going to be impossible to track the 9.6 million children that benefited from the NSNP and therefore MECs of education agreed that the programme will not be running during the lockdown. To this end, Minister Motshekga said she has handed over the school nutrition function to Social Development Minister, Ms Lindiwe Zulu, to run with it.
According to media reports this week, the Western Cape MEC for Education, Ms Debbie Schaefer, said the feeding scheme is to continue. She is reported to have said that it is business as usual and that as per normal, food is prepared at schools by food handlers. “The intention is then to let them prepare the food there, then we will be able to allocate it to the learners in a sort of take-away parcel of some sort,” she said.
Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba said: “We do not want to expose our communities to the possibilities of contracting the virus. We cannot be telling people to stay safe and stay at home and at the same time we are encouraging them to collect food at school. We are sending out conflicting messages to our people in a time when we should be united in putting the health and interests of our learners and communities first. We know, in underprivileged communities if the people are made aware of food being distributed, they will go and queue, thereby exposing the adults or children who collect the food.”
Ms Mbinqo-Gigaba said she will write to Minister Motshekga requested 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.
ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON BASIC EDUCATION, MS BONGIWE MBINQO-GIGABA.
For media enquiries or interviews with the Chairperson, please contact the committee’s Media Officer:
Name: Rajaa Azzakani (Ms)
Tel: 021 403 8437
Cell: 081 703 9542
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