What is in this guide?
This guide provides government policy on school admissions. It has the following sections:
- What is the school feeding scheme?
- Who is eligible for school feeding, and are they being fed?
- How does school feeding work in practice?
- Who is excluded from school feeding?
The school feeding scheme - or as it is officially called: the National School Nutrition Programme - aims to foster better quality education by:
- enhancing children's active learning capacity;
- alleviating short-term hunger;
- providing an incentive for children to attend school
- regularly and punctually; and
- addressing certain micro-nutrient deficiencies.
School feeding is a small part of the Integrated Food Security Strategy for South Africa, which was introduced in 2002 and involves the Departments of Health, Social Development, Land Affairs and Agriculture. The school feeding programme is therefore just one of a range of projects that respond to nutritional needs, and does not try to respond to all problems around poor nutrition, hunger or food security.
The selection for the school feeding scheme works in two ways. First, whole schools are selected for funding for this programme because most of their learners come from poor families. Within selected schools, learners are selected by age or grade or some other criteria for feeding. The minimum policy is to feed all Grades from R up to Grade 7 for 156 out of approximately 196 school days per year.
Research found that not all children entitled to school feeding received food. While 90% of eligible children (were reported to be receiving free food at school in the rural site, only 56% of eligible children in the urban site were receiving food. On the other hand, urban children who were receiving food at school got it more regularly than those in the rural site.
Feeding schemes provides only a small amount of food to help to relieve child hunger and also to relieve poor caregivers from some of the burden of worry when they are unable to provide enough food for their children.
There are a number of common problems with school feeding schemes that parents, teachers and school governing bodies should watch out for:
- While there are 22 approved meal plans, many providers have chosen "cold" menu plans that don't require cooking facilities. The menu consists of brown bread with margarine, peanut butter and jam, served with a powered milkshake supplement enriched with micro-nutrients. In practice, it appears that children do not always receive all the food that is officially allocated. While the urban schools reported that their stocks were sufficient to provide food regularly, the rural schools did not always have all the ingredients available.
- Parents talk of food disappearing from schools and in some cases, there has been corruption and theft by people providing the food.
- In many areas there is no system of accountability to the parent body. Many caregivers do not know whether their children receive food regularly. Some say that all children in the class receive food, others believe that the programme is only for children whose parents are unemployed, or only for orphaned children.
- Schools do not always operate properly, closing half-way through the morning or not opening at all. During the rainy season the roads in rural areas can become impassable - meaning the bread truck cannot get through to deliver bread and school feeding cannot happen. The milkshakes require water and schools without potable water reported children with diarrhoea.
As with the No-fee Schools and School Fee Exemption policies, children living in areas where schools are too far and/or not operating are practically excluded from the National School Nutrition Programme. But there are also exclusions inherent in the design of this programme. Young children under six years old who are not yet at school cannot access food through the programme.
There is currently no government-funded nutrition programme at high schools, although it has been reported that some provincial departments have used discretionary funding for this purpose. Government will extend feeding to high schools in the next five years.
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