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EDUCATION AND RECREATION SELECT COMMITTEE
24 August 2005
NATIONAL SCHOOL NUTRITION PROGRAMME: EDUCATION DEPARTMENT BRIEFING
Documents handed out:
Education Department briefing: National School Nutrition Programme
National School Nutrition Programme: Pocket Guide 2005
The Department of Education gave a detailed overview of the status of the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) at 18 months into its management by the Education (instead of the Health) Department. In the first year, five million children had been fed in 16 000 schools. Particular attention was paid to the quality of the food and nutrition. The process of allocating funds to the provinces was based on an equitable share formula. Further concerns would be raised with the Minister.
Ms Tyobeka, Department Deputy Director-General, said that since taking over from the financial year 2004/05, the Department had decided not to make any major changes in order to ensure the smooth transition. Targets would create the capacity to manage the scheme at all critical levels, to pay particular attention to the quality of the food and service under the guidance of the Department of Health, and to ensure feeding for at least 156 of the total number of school days. Children should be fed before 10 a.m. to benefit them when they went into class. In the first year, approximately 5 million learners in 16 000 schools had been fed. NSNP units had been created in all nine provinces and training was provided for management, with special focus on monitoring. About 40 000 unemployed women who were heads of households, had been engaged and paid modest honorariums. About 316 Small-, Medium- and Micro-enterprises (SMMEs) situated in the feeding areas, had been contracted. Almost 98% of the budget had been spent by the end of March.
The key focus for 2005/06 was on strengthening monitoring and quality service, sustainable food production in schools, the stimulation of the local economy and job creation. Three deputy directors each had the responsibility of monitoring three provinces and finances. This monitoring focused on the quality of service including adherence to menus, food preparation and hygiene. Sustainable food production was a major drive to ensure operational school/community gardens wherever feeding was happening. In establishing these gardens, the Department worked in close collaboration with the Departments of Agriculture and Health. The local economies had been stimulated in that in five provincial governments had decided that SMMEs would be preferred service providers. North West had gone further by narrowing contractors to parents of particular school learners. In order to curb monopolies and spread the small budget, both the North West and the Northern Cape had prescribed the number of schools to be serviced by any one provider.
Ms N Madlala-Magubane (ANC Gauteng) commented on the good work being done and asked whether the Department was working together with Social Welfare with regard to with children who were orphaned and HIV-positive. She also asked whether the programme would be rolled out to schools exempted from paying school fees.
Ms F Mazibuko (ANC Gauteng) noted that only 1 025 schools had been targeted in Gauteng. She asked what kind of food was being given out, and what plans were put in place to sustain feeding beyond school days for needy and orphaned children. She asked for clarity on the honorariums and on what the unit cost per learner was based.
Mr T Setona (ANC Free State) asked how the Department drew experience from public representations, policies and regulations. He sought clarity as to service providers, SMEs and volunteers, and why the unit costs per learner were not uniform. Children were being fed in the morning but had nothing in the evening - was there any plan for the eradication of poverty? The whole Committee needed to be involved.
Ms Masilo (ANC North West) was interested in the monitoring of quality menus, food preparation and handling; the management of finances; and whether there were late payments to service providers. She was not happy that tenders were still open as she felt local people should be given more of a chance.
Ms J Vilakazi (IFP KwaZulu-Natal) felt that her province was one of the poorest provinces and queried why only 3 090 schools were involved.
Ms Tyobeka said that feeding was the same at schools paying fees and those that did not. As to the treatment of children orphaned by AIDS, the Departments of Education, Health and Social Development had established the ‘Health and Wellness in Education Committee’, which would monitor the total wellbeing of children. Some of the teachers were informing the Department about children who were HIV-positive and giving them vitamins. This project was a pilot to feed the children but would integrate with assistance with homework for those who needed it.
The process of allocating funds to the provinces was based on an equitable share formula. The honorarium was really a stipend, but which should not be less than R400 per month. Contracted service providers bought the food (ideally SMMEs), whereas volunteers cooked and served the food.
The variation in unit costs per learner depended on the kind of food being served and its nutritional value. The province was recommending the use of indigenous food, which could be cheaper and therefore able to feed more children, but the food had to be of good quality.
As far as the allocation for KwaZulu-Natal was concerned, this was actually the biggest allocation with almost 200 unconditional grants. In recent studies, the KwaZulu-Natal programme was found to be performing well. On payment to service providers, Ms Tyobeka said this had now much improved and there were far fewer late payments.
The Chairperson felt national government should set conditions for tenders and that the national office needed to decentralise. Tenders generally went to big business that wanted big profits. He wondered how schools such as the Northern Province, which were not fenced, could provide food gardens. He was very concerned about overspending in the last quarter. The Western Cape had paid out only 4% and children were likely to suffer. Mr Vilakazi agreed with the Chairperson that there was a need for control, but there had to be uniformity and the children had to eat.
Ms Mazibuko asked for clarity on how the schedule was worked out. She asked whether the feeding programme also applied to high schools and felt there was a need to get to that level. She requested a breakdown of service providers per province and felt micro-enterprises should be increasingly empowered. Tenders should be rotated to ensure there were no monopolies. Schools should be visited to check what food was being served and if it was enjoyed.
Mr Setona agreed but felt ministers should not put extra conditions on conditional grants. KwaZulu-Natal had fewer learners but more money was going to service providers. He proposed convening a meeting with the Minister to understand how the determination was being arrived at.
Ms Lamoela asked for a breakdown of the number of visits per province. Provinces had the right to indicate how conditional grants were spent. The Deputy Director-General said that the unit cost per learner depended on what food was being supplied and where it was being sourced from – sometimes this could be obtained from small farmers in the area. The focus was on nutritional value.
On the issue of fencing, Ms Tyobeka referred to the Kids Up programme. The Department was trying to fence schools for safety and security reasons. There was no problem with payment to workers. In Gauteng, the feeding programme has moved to some of the high schools. There were many hungry children from the same families but the problem was limited funds. More public contributions was needed – for example, the Deciduous Fruits Trust donated fruit.
The Chairperson concluded that payment to service providers in the Western Cape was totally unsatisfactory and a letter would be written to address that trend. The important thing was that children were eating. Monitoring how conditional grants were used should be a special function. Further concerns would be raised with the Minister.
The meeting was adjourned.
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