Pupils Speak Out: It’s not only pupils at no-fee schools that need feeding schemes

The article you are about to read is part of a weekly series of comment pieces written by pupils about the problems they encounter in their schools. The series offers pupils a chance to be part of the debate about South Africa’s education system.

For some pupils from underprivileged backgrounds, the meals they get from the school’s feeding scheme is the only food they will have for the day.

We are pupils at a school in central Johannesburg. Another pupil who benefits from the feeding scheme told us: “Food from the scheme is not bad, but it is not always available.”

He says that even though the quality of the food is low, it is better than nothing.

Some children go to school hungry and cannot afford to buy from the tuck shop because they do not get money from their homes. For others, all that they get is R5, which doesn’t buy much except unhealthy foods and snacks like vetkoek, mostly sold at the tuck shop. The only healthy options are apples and bananas.

Children should have healthy food. The feeding scheme at our school provides each person with four slices of bread with either jam or butter. Pupils feel that this is not good enough because bread is not a meal and the menu does not change.

Rice or pap served with vegetables once or twice a week would not be a bad idea.

Vegetable gardens in the school yard would help with the supply of healthy food and equip pupils with skills to feed themselves and to take care of the environment. Most pupils who depend on the feeding scheme are from poor backgrounds, which makes these skills essential.

Another pupil at the school says the food often runs out for about a week or more, meaning they have to learn on hungry stomachs. They say it is hard to function when they are hungry because they feel drained and tired, especially in summer or on hot days.

It is mostly no-fee public schools that receive food supplies from the government, as opposed to the fee-paying schools that depend on sponsorships from companies or organisations to feed pupils.

Children say that there is inequality between these schools and no-fee schools. They feel that the government tends to forget that some pupils in fee-paying schools are also from poor backgrounds. The school might even close down its feeding scheme because of a lack of funds.

Government intervention is necessary to ensure that all children, including those in fee-paying schools, do not go hungry.

The pupils who wrote this article are participants in Media Monitoring Africa Children’s News Agency project. This nonprofit media watchdog organisation, based in Johannesburg, aims to enhance the participation of children in mainstream media by providing them with the skills necessary to report on problems that children face. 

The agency works with pupils between the ages of 14 and 17 who attend an inner-city public school in Johannesburg and are mostly from ­underprivileged backgrounds. The project ­participants identify problems they face in and out of school, ­interview other children affected by the same ­problems, then write comment pieces about what they discover

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