CAPE TOWN - Calls are mounting for the return to traditional school attendance, with advocacy group Equal Education backing concerns that some disadvantaged pupils would continue to be hindered from accessing the crucial National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said last week rotational learning would continue in schools across the country due to the one-metre social-distancing requirement.
However, several education role players including, Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schäfer have proposed this to be scrapped, citing the on-off attendance at schools affected the quality of education, and pupils accessing the feeding programme as often as they should.
Eighty-eight percent of primary schools were still attending rotational classes in the province.
Western Cape education department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said food was available at schools, but the rotation hindered pupils’ collection efforts.
“This department has 496 098 learners on our feeding scheme.
“Despite our best efforts to make meals accessible for learners, including food parcels at some rural schools, and accommodating learners from other schools, the reality is that children at home often do not come and collect them, for whatever reason.
“This differs from day to day.
“A child might come on a Monday, but not a Tuesday. In other cases a Grade 1 child might not be allowed to collect their meal, as they are unsupervised at home. It really does have consequences, despite making meals available throughout this period,” she said.
She said schools were required to report daily to the department how many pupils were fed.
Equal Education researcher Stacey Jacobs said the Ministerial Advisory Committee should revise recommendations because a large contingent of teachers, school staff, and education employees have been vaccinated.
She said the Covid-19 vaccinations have also been made available for children aged 12.
“Equal Education strongly urges the government to abandon rotational timetables, and to safely reopen schools for all learners. A return to traditional school attendance will help mitigate against learner disengagement and dropout, and ensure access to key programmes such as NSNP, and professional psychosocial support services,” said Jacobs.
Equal Education and the school governing bodies of two Limpopo schools secured a court victory in July 2020, requiring the DBE and provincial education departments, excluding the Western Cape education department to roll out the NSNP under the Covid-19 lockdown.
Jacobs said however, that access was still hampered due to insufficient communication to inform school communities that the NSNP was available for all qualifying pupils.