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Covid-19: School feeding reopens in Western Cape

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But South African Democratic Teachers Union accuses province of undermining national plan to limit the spread of Covid-19

Photo of a learner getting food
Voorspoed Primary in Hanover Park was among dozens of schools across the Western Cape that opened on Wednesday to feed vulnerable learners. Photo: Supplied
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Provincial education minister Debbie Schäfer announced on Monday that the department was allocated emergency funding to support learners who ordinarily received meals at school during the term.

But the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) has accused the Western Cape Government of undermining the President’s plan to limit the spread of Covid-19, as some schools opened on Wednesday to feed vulnerable learners.

In a statement, SADTU said: “The union is equally anxious that working class learners and their families do not have access to food during this lockdown period. However, the union believes the plan by the Western Cape government to feed the learners in schools will defeat attempts to curb the spread of Covid-19 and put the lives of vulnerable working class learners at risk.”

SADTU said the plan was communicated to schools over the weekend and the unions were briefed on Monday.

But Schäfer said the statement by SADTU showed how out of touch the union was with what was happening on the ground.

“I am extremely saddened by SADTU’s response. We have had such an overwhelmingly positive response to our initiative, after weeks of requests from desperate communities, that I cannot understand how any organisation can be opposed to this,” she said.

“We have issued detailed protocols to schools for the implementation of this essential work to ensure that social distancing is maintained and that our learners and staff are kept safe. This morning I visited two schools where the protocols are in place, and have received a number of photos from across the province showing children quietly waiting a suitable distance apart for their food,” said Schäfer.

One of the schools opened to feed learners on Wednesday was Voorspoed Primary School in Hanover Park. Principal Reginald Esau said things went very well and over 300 learners were served.

“All learners were sanitised on arrival and all staff were wearing protective gear. The food was prepared in our school feeding scheme kitchen and today’s meal was rice and curry. We followed regulations and made sure the learners were standing at 1.5 metres apart and there was only one gate opened,” said Esau.

Esau said that after getting their meal, learners then left the school premises.

Helping in the school feeding plan is the Peninsula School Feeding Association (PSFA). Its fundraising manager Charles Grey said PSFA “will be packing and delivering thousands of food parcels to schools supported by PSFA, but the association will only deliver to schools that obtain permission to open and have essential services permits”.

Each PSFA parcel would contain maize meal, cooking oil, two tins of pilchards, self-rising flour, rice, lentils, peanut butter, samp and beans, he said.

According to Schäfer it is expected that schools will feed learners on Wednesday and Friday this week, and again on Tuesday and Friday next week. She said some schools might feed daily on weekdays from Wednesday 8 April. This decision will be taken by individual schools and communicated to their school communities, depending on circumstances on the ground.

The learners will not be allowed to sit down at schools and eat, but will collect the food in containers. Sanitiser, soap and water would also be provided to learners to wash their hands.

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TOPICS:  Covid-19 Education Food security

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