29 July 2020

On 17 July, the North Gauteng High Court in South Africa ruled that learners are entitled to receive school meals as part of the National Schools Nutrition Programme (NSNP), which was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The case, which was brought by Equal Education and two Limpopo Schools, represented by Equal Education Law Centre and SECTION27, means that the nine million learners who depend on the NSNP will now receive a nutritious meal every day -- whether learners have returned to school or not.

The judgment, handed down by Judge Sulet Potterill, affirms that nutrition – alongside school infrastructure, textbooks and scholar transport – is a central component of the right to basic education, and that the constitutional rights to basic nutrition and basic education are interdependent.. In her judgment, Judge Potteril states: ‘it is well-established that well-nourished schoolchildren learn better.’

The judgment, which Equal Education heralds as ‘an important piece of jurisprudence’, includes two orders: 

  1. A declaratory order, reiterating the constitutional and statutory duty of the Department for Basic Education (DBE) and the provincial education departments to fulfil learners’ constitutional rights to basic nutrition and basic education by delivering the NSNP. 

  2. A supervisory interdict (an order under which the court controls compliance with its order) which orders the Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga and the Education MECs of eight provinces to file detailed plans and programmes for the resumption of the NSNP to all eligible learners within 10 days. Thereafter, the Minister and the MECs will be required to file updates with the court every 15 days to prove that the plans to provide meals to learners are actually being implemented.

Read more about why they had to go to court to force the government to provide school meals and watch an inspiring video from activists.

Education rights organisations and schools communities are now going to monitor government’s compliance with the schools meals court judgment. Find out more on Equal Education’s website, here.

Equal Education

Court documents:

This article is based on an Equal Education press release.