The High Court in Pretoria will on Thursday hear an urgent case brought by Equal Education (EE) and two Limpopo schools to ensure that meals are provided to all nine million learners who qualify to benefit from the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).

Represented by the Equal Education Law Centre and Section 27, EE and the schools are asking the court for a declaratory order that there is a duty on government to ensure that all learners who qualify to benefit from the NSNP must continue to receive these meals, regardless of whether their grades returned to schools on 8 June.

“We are also asking the court to provide a structural order that requires both national and provincial departments to within five days of the court order, provide detailed plans and all the information on the implementation of this programme. We think it is critical in showing their commitment to fulfilling their constitutional obligation in ensuring that the learners are fed,” says EE Secretary-General Noncedo Madubedube.

The organisation says the impact of the suspension of the programme has been devastating.

“It is also affecting my siblings, especially my younger brother who will cry when he does not have food to eat. My family fights a lot over bread and necessities,” says a grade 11 learner from Gauteng.

A caregiver from KwaZulu-Natal says the suspension of the school feeding scheme has made their daily lives much more challenging.

“We need the school feeding programme to start again so that the school-going children in our household can eat and we can buy food that we can all eat.”

Madubedube says it is shameful that the government is being taken to court to fulfill its constitutional mandate.

“It is shameful that the national and provincial Education Departments must be dragged to court to ensure the delivery of school meals. The NSNP is fundamental to supporting the ability of children to learn and crucial to the right to basic education.”

In the audio below, Madubedube explains reasons behind the urgent case: