Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga will now have to provide regular updates to the courts on plans being implemented to ensure pupils are being fed at schools.
The High Court in Pretoria has ordered the department to resume the national schools’ nutrition programme to all eligible pupils with immediate effect – regardless of whether they are back in class.
The project is credited for feeding up to nine million children across the country, many of whom would otherwise go hungry.
The matter was brought before the court by Equal Education, Section-27 and two Limpopo school governing bodies.
They argued – in part – that the COVID-19 disaster did not serve as a basis to deprive pupils of their right to nutrition.
There had been mounting concerns that the lockdown period, and the consequent closure of schools exacerbated hunger among children in the country who received their only daily meals at school.
Acting Deputy Judge President Sulet Potterill ruled that the nutrition plan should be rolled out across all nine provinces – and Minister Motshekga must file updates with the court every 15 days to prove that the plans are being implemented.
As expected, Equal Education has welcomed the ruling. It’s general secretary Noncedo Madubedube said: “For learners to access meals at school with ease it will ease the strain on caregivers; many of whom have lost their income and are struggling to put food on the table.”
It remains to be seen how this ruling will impact the raging debate around the re-opening of schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.