South Africa: MEC Debbie Schäfer Thanks Communities for Feeding Schemes During Coronavirus COVID-19 Lockdown

press release

Emergency school feeding off to a great start in Western Cape

The emergency school feeding programme started around the Western Cape today, as schools and communities have come together to ensure our learners' health will not suffer during this extended school closure.

I have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from the vast majority of our schools. Staff and volunteers have gone the extra mile to provide meals today, and I offer them my sincere thanks. It is clear that they really care about our province's children.

This morning I visited two schools where the protocols we have issued to ensure safety and distancing are in place, and we have received a number of photos from across the province showing children waiting a suitable distance apart for their food.

So it is unfortunate that SADTU has decided to attack our humanitarian mission to feed hungry children during the lockdown.

I am extremely saddened by their response. It shows that they are completely out of touch with what is happening on the ground. We have had such an overwhelmingly positive response to our initiative, after weeks of requests from desperate communities, that I cannot understand how any organisation can be opposed to this.

It is important to be clear on the facts of the programme over the next two weeks.

First off, there is no 'one size fits all' plan being rolled out. Each school is unique, and this is why the education districts are working with school principals to develop a plan that suits their school and their learners the best.

Secondly, we have issued detailed protocols to schools for the implementation of this essential work to ensure that social distancing is maintained and that our learners and staff are kept safe.

These include:

Having sufficient adult supervision available to make sure learners are following all the safety protocols

Ensuring an orderly queuing system, preferably in a staggered manner to reduce the number of learners arriving at the same time

Learners must bring their own food containers from home, which are not touched by the staff/volunteers

Ensuring that learners remain at least 1.5m apart from one another

Ensuring that no more than 50 children come at a time

Providing soap and water for learners to wash their hands, or hand sanitizer

Learners will not eat at school - they will go directly to school, collect their meals, and go directly home

SAPS has also been made aware of the plans, and have agreed to patrol the areas around the schools when meals are being served.

This decision was not made lightly, and it was not made overnight. This was the most logistically plausible way in which to support as many learners as we possibly can so that our children receive the nutrition they need. For many children, this is the only meal they will receive today.

We understand that school staff and volunteers are scared of COVID-19 - as we all are, which is why we have put these measures in place, as per the NICD guidelines. This is a difficult task, but it is an essential one. We are doing this with the best interest of our province's children at heart.

We cannot simply leave our children to go hungry. It is also no different to people going to shops to buy food, or the many soup kitchens that continue to operate.

Only by standing together in this time of crisis can we ensure the health and safety of our learners, and #StopTheSpread of the coronavirus. I would really have hoped that SADTU would have been part of the solution, not part of the problem.

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