World Hunger Day: You can’t teach a hungry child

By Minister Debbie Schafer, Western Cape Minister of Education:

To feed a learners mind, you need to feed their body. A hungry body cannot be a growing body.

It is however, a sad reality that many children in South Africa arrive at school daily with an empty stomach. You can’t teach a hungry child.

This is why the Western Cape Government is committed to ensuring that our poorer learners of this Province receive not just one, but two nutritious meals at school every day. We recently added breakfast so that children receive two meals a day, including lunch. The Western Cape is one of the only provinces to do this.

The NDP states that ‘By 2030, feeding schemes in schools should cover all children in need and provide food that is high in nutritional content and rich in vitamins’.

The Western Cape Province is on track to achieve this goal. Our successful school nutrition programme has expanded year on year to assist more of our hungry learners.

Allocations to the feeding scheme have more than doubled since 2009/2010, increasing from R112 million to just over R299,4 million in 2015/2016.

Over 465 000 learners from 1 028 schools currently receive two nutritious meals in the Western Cape every day.

The department has designed the menus to ensure that children receive adequate nutrition that they need to learn and play. Menus are designed by dieticians to improve the general nutritional status of the children and consist of warm, cooked meals.

There are five different menus for each day of the week. The menus typically include rice, samp, soya mince, a protein, fruit, vegetables, bread, jam, peanut butter and cereals.

The school feeding scheme does not only provide more nutrition for our learners but will encourage our learners to arrive early for school and stay in school. It allows children to focus on their studies rather than their stomachs and helps to increase school enrolment and attendance, decrease drop-out rates, and improve cognitive abilities.

I would also like to use this opportunity to congratulate the Overberg Education District which won the best district nationally for the National Schools Nutrition Programme (NSNP) BEST AWARDS.

The Western Cape Department of Social Development also supports the Mass Opportunity and Development Centres (MOD centres) through providing nutritious meals to participating learners. They have provided meals to 101 of the 181 schools participating in the MOD centre programme. These meals have proven to be an important element of the MOD centre programme in that it contributes to school retention and broader participation in academic and character-building extra-mural activity.

Today, on World Hunger Day, the Government of the Western Cape is pleased that we are able to increase in the quality of education provision in poorer communities by ensuring that no learner has to learn with an empty stomach.