The National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP) is going ahead as normal in many parts of Limpopo.
Feeding has been halted only in the affected schools located in the Sekhukhune district from where reports of food contamination have emerged. The handlers only in the affected schools have been requested to stop preparing food for the learners in order for a thorough investigation to be conducted.
We are concerned about the contamination of food and we are doing all we can to address the matter. We want to make it clear, however, that no learner has died as a result of consuming food from the nutrition programme in the province as reported in the media. The health and safety of the learners is of paramount importance to government; hence the department introduced the programme in the first place. Government will continue to safeguard the unqualified Constitutional rights of learners to basic education, health, nutrition, and safety. It is for these reasons that the department has such stringent measures in the affected schools.
More than 1, 6 million learners in more than 3 800 Limpopo public schools benefit from the feeding programme. There are 353 328 learners in the Sekhukhune District who benefit from the NSNP.
The Limpopo Department of Education, supported by the Department of Basic Education, are working together to ensure service, health and environmental standards are maintained in the nutrition programme in Limpopo, both at the school level and the warehouses of the Limpopo NSNP main retailers.
Last week, the participation of some main NSNP retailer were terminated either because these retailers were implicated in the food contamination that resulted in learners being hospitalised in some Sekhukhune schools; or their warehouses failed to meet the predetermined service, health and environmental standards. It is however important to note that all learners who were taken to hospital or clinics for observation, have been released.
The main NSNP suppliers have been directed not to buy and distribute foodstuff with a particular brand label, as foodstuff with that brand label, particularly dried beans, were found to be extremely problematic.
The South African Police Services (SAPS) have also begun with an investigative inquiry into allegations with a view to laying criminal charges.
The National School Nutrition programme (NSNP) is funded through a ring-fenced Conditional Grant in terms of the Division of Revenue Act (DORA). The DORA particularly determines a legal framework through which the NSNP must be implemented. Coupled with this, the Minister of Basic Education has taken over the executive responsibilities of the Limpopo Department of Education in terms of section 100(1)(b) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 to the extent necessary. Therefore, the Minister and the Department of Basic Education among other responsibilities must ensure a compliant roll-out of the NSNP in Limpopo schools.
The Department will introduce additional monitoring measures with school-based monitors to report daily on the implementation of the programme.
The NSNP monitoring system is being reviewed to tighten critical stages of food supply chain, and to solicit the support of the Department of Health and Local Municipality. Relations will be strengthened with the Health Environmental Practitioners in Limpopo to draw lessons and replicate a process of establishing checks and balances on monitoring suppliers in all provinces.
In light of the unfortunate incidents in Limpopo, the DBE is currently reviewing the draft 2015/16 Grant Framework to be gazetted in the Division of Revenue Act (DORA) to incorporate a transversal procurement system to enhance the operations of the current system.
DBE is also exploring the expansion of the use of technology in monitoring the school nutrition programme. A Technical Task Team has been established to work on the modalities of introducing the system throughout all provinces. An operational plan for the provincial roll-out is expected before the end of November 2014.
Enquiries: Elijah Mhlanga – 083 580 8275
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF BASIC EDUCATION