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EDUCATION PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
1 MARCH 2005
SCHOOL NUTRITION AND SCHOOL UNIFORMS DRAFT POLICY: BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Department Policy Guidelines on School Uniforms (confidential, thus withdrawn)
Department School Uniforms Policy Guidelines, 5th Draft (confidential, thus withdrawn)
National School Nutrition Programme PowerPoint presentation
The Committee withdrew its plans to discuss school uniforms as the documents were not yet met to be made public. They instead discussed the progress of the National Primary School Nutrition Programme that had been providing nutritious meals to children in rural and undeveloped areas. Members discussed the issues of corruption in the food distribution and overall inefficiency in the programme.
The Chairperson opened the meeting by introducing the Department of Education’s presentation on school uniforms. One of the two documents, titled ‘School Uniforms Policy Guidelines, 5th Draft’, was labelled confidential and was not intended for public release. This was a problem because the meeting was open to the public and the press. Discussion arose whether to open the confidential, unapproved Department draft document to the public or to withdraw it.
Ms H Zille (DA) said that the public had a right to freely access the meeting and that the document should be discussed. The Department was correct in bringing a non-finalised draft document so that the Committee could discuss it and help develop the policy.
Mr D Montsitsi (ANC) said a Department had never before presented the Committee with a document labelled confidential. He suggested that the Department finalise the policy and bring it back to the Committee. If a document was presented to the Committee, it should be available to the public and for the Members to share with their constituents.
The Chairperson ruled to withdraw the confidential document. The second document, ‘Policy Guidelines on School Uniforms’, was a summary of the confidential document and so it was also withdrawn. He decided not to discuss the issue of school uniforms at the meeting. The Clerk collected both documents.
Ms P Tyobeka, Deputy Director-General of Quality Promotion and Development, gave a presentation on the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP). Successes in the past year included the feeding of approximately 5 million learners in 16 000 schools; providing training for 200 district managers on project management; and visiting and monitoring the programme in 4 248 schools, mainly in underdeveloped areas. Problems included little real economic empowerment of targeted communities; no guaranteed food security for children being fed, and that many service providers were fronts for businesses outside of the communities. Food security was a major concern since many older children would bully the smaller children out of their food and sometimes students would only receive bread instead of bread, peanut butter and a nutritious drink. Goals for the upcoming year included making school food gardens mandatory for all schools that provided food; conducting an evaluation study, and focusing on increasing the vendors’ knowledge of hygienic food preparation. Another goal was to standardise the salaries of the service providers, which currently ranged between R50 and R 500.
Ms C Mgipima, Chief Director of HIV/AIDS and Nutrition, added that the NSNP and its food gardens were not only concerned with development issues, but also with inculcating good eating habits through nutrition education. This education should help reduce obesity among schoolchildren.
Ms H Zille asked how much of the NSNP budget was used for food and how much was used for administration. Especially in the Eastern Cape and the Free State, there was corruption among the service providers, possible corruption within the Department, and inefficiencies throughout the system. The Deputy Director-General (DD-G) had not sufficiently addressed the problem of suppliers charging for food they were not delivering.
Ms D Nhlengethwa (ANC) said that in KwaZulu-Natal, there was no NSNP and that schoolchildren were getting no food at all. She suggested the Department present an ‘outreach programme’ to inform parents in all provinces about the NSNP.
Ms Tyobeka responded that the financing currently only came from government, and it would be better to create partnerships so that the government was not the sole source. The NSNP was largely successful and seven out of nine provinces had systems that worked and were able to pay the providers. She agreed that the Free State had much work to be done and they had deployed project and financial managers there to lessen inefficiencies. The NSNP had allowed provinces to take up to 7% of the funds for administrative costs during the first three years of a programme’s implementation, but the percentage should reduce thereafter. The NSNP had been moving toward serving indigenous foods because they were cost-efficient and the children were familiar to them.
Ms Nhlengethwa said among her constituents, the children were now receiving hot meals such as beans and peas but that the bags of food were routinely stolen before they reached the children. There was a lack of monitoring and that food preparers and others were selling the students’ food to the community.
Ms P Mashangoane (ANC) asked if dieticians were still present to check that the meals were nutritionally balanced. Some children were not fed on a routine basis, especially during school vacations. She suggested that parents could assist the service providers in monitoring the food distribution to reduce corruption.
Ms M Mentor (ANC) said that paying 40 000 female food preparers between R50 and R500 million was exploitation considering the long hours they worked. The link between good nutrition and health should be noted since many service providers might not check the allergies of children (e.g. to peanuts) or unknowingly serve spoiled milk. The delegation was comprised mostly of women - perhaps because the Department considered social or ‘soft’ issues such as uniforms and nutrition most suitable for women. This was an unfortunate situation.
Mr R Bhoola (MF) asked how the Department was planning to address corruption in rural areas, especially in KwaZulu-Natal schools. He also asked about the possibility of the Department phasing in school nutrition for secondary school learners in addition to primary schools.
Ms Mentor asked if the Department of Agriculture would provide seed for the food gardens. Young schoolchildren who attended morning school often had to wait until after 5 p.m. for their siblings to finish classes so they could travel the distance home together, yet they often received no food after lunchtime.
Ms Tyobeka responded that the NSNP had been working with the Department of Agriculture to provide seed, but that the communities had largely been able to provide enough on their own.
Ms C Mpati, Director of School Nutrition, said that the NSNP had begun to develop a programme for secondary school children. The challenge was to focus on children in the poorest communities and that all others problems with in the NSNP, such as those parties who made a profit, were of secondary concern to students.
The meeting was adjourned.
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