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By Valencia Talane

The national school nutrition programme (NSNP) was launched around 19 years ago. It’s one way of ensuring that children who come from poor families have a healthy balanced meal on a daily basis. Because parents have entrusted the Department of Basic Education (DBE) with the safety and wellbeing of their children, they have not only the right but also the responsibility to make certain that the goals of the NSNP are met.

In part one of our three-part series we revealed some of the reports alleging corruption, that we’ve received, and in part two we explained more about how the scheme should, in theory, work.

We round off our series by advising stakeholders of the channels that are in place to report corruption observed at various levels in the school feeding scheme, and guiding them on what questions to ask to assure themselves that all is above board.

Reporting corruption

Principals or teachers: if a principal or teacher in the school is suspected of wrongdoing, parents can report the matter to the circuit manager appointed by the district office under which the school falls. The matter will then be forwarded to the labour relations unit of the district office, which will investigate and call for a disciplinary hearing.

This may result in suspension or even dismissal of the person involved.

An alternative action would be to report the corruption to the police, where a criminal case would then be investigated.

Suppliers: in a case where a supplier is suspected of inflating the prices of foodstuffs, perhaps in collusion with the principal, the matter should again be reported to the district office, where an investigation will be launched.

To prevent the centralisation of power over funds to principals, the department requires that all suppliers or contractors to a school submit quotations that have to be approved by either the finance or procurement committees within the school governing body (SGB).

These quotations, once approved, are to be used for a period between three and six months, at the end of which they must be reviewed. Without the involvement of the SGB, the principal may not under any circumstances enter into contracts using the school’s funds.

Suppliers who fail to deliver food on time or do not deliver at all and are guilty of this misconduct on more than one occasion may have their contracts terminated by the SGB or the provincial department, which would have reviewed their appointment initially.

Food handlers: members of the community who are appointed as food handlers to cook and serve food for the feeding scheme are approved by the SGB.

They are expected to prepare the food in a clean environment, on a daily basis, and serve the learners during break time, usually around 10am so as not to interfere with their learning schedule.

The number of food handlers employed in a school depends on the school roll. The approved ratio is one food handler to every 200 learners.

Because they are accountable to the SGB, food handlers who are suspected of wrongdoing should be reported to the governing body, which will then investigate the allegations.

Food handlers are allowed to eat a meal after all the learners have been served for the day, but are prohibited from taking leftovers home. Leftovers are supposed to be given to the poorest learners to take home and it is up to the SGB and principal to determine who these learners are.

If food handlers – whether by instruction from the school’s authorities or not – tamper with the department-approved menu of the feeding scheme, they may be reported to the SGB. If the principal, SGB or teacher(s) are suspected of benefiting from the manipulation of the ingredients, quality or quantity of the food, they may be reported to the district office which will appoint an investigator.

A rotation system for food handlers is encouraged by the department to avoid the same parents being employed for long without others getting the same opportunity. The recommended cycle for food handlers is six to 12 months. Priority for appointment is given to parents of learners in the school.

Where nepotism is suspected, in other words where the principal or SGB are suspected of favouring family or friends, this may be reported to the district office.

Complex logistics

By its nature, the NSNP is a broad one that requires the proper management of its logistics. At every level of the DBE’s structure there needs to be measures for monitoring and managing risks that could compromise the primary beneficiaries – the learners.

On the one hand, over eight-million youngsters across the country benefit from the NSNP, and on the other hand, there are 45 000 people tasked with cooking and serving the food that is supplied by over 3 000 small businesses contracted to the department.

Parents therefore need to equip themselves with knowledge of how the programme should be run: to know what their children eat, why they are served the food that they are, how the food gets to the school.

Important information for parents

Besides knowing about the day-to-day running of the school feeding scheme their children participate in, parents also need to know the policies and guidelines that inform the make-up of the scheme because they too are stakeholders and therefore have a responsibility to ensure that the scheme is run efficiently.

Parents should always be informed on the following matters:

  • What is the school’s budget for the feeding scheme?
  • How many learners will the feeding scheme cater for?
  • Who will supply the food; and was their selection fair and in line with the guidelines of the NSNP?
  • Who will cook or serve the food on a daily basis; and was their appointment fair and in line with the guidelines of the NSNP?
  • Does the school provide monthly reports to the district office on the running of the programme?

Legislative framework

The NSNP is governed by the Bill of Rights in the Constitution as well as Section 34 of the South African Schools Act, which stipulates that the state must fund public schools to “ensure the proper exercise of the rights of learners to education and the redress of past inequalities in education”.

It is also based on the principles of the National Programme of Action for Children and the UN Convention on the Rights of Children, both of which came into being in 1996.

The programme is funded through a conditional grant allocated to provincial education departments in accordance with the Division of Revenue Act.

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