The learning process in South African schools is increasingly being negatively influenced by factors such as malnutrition and hunger. In order for the country to reach its education goals, more needs to be done by private and public sectors to reduce hunger among primary and high school learners.
This is according to Andy du Plessis of the Peninsula School Feeding Association (PSFA), speaking at the annual Cipla Medpro Adopt-a-School fundraising initiative in Cape Town, which raised R1 million to feed 2 700 children across seven schools in the Western Cape for the next year. Schools that will benefit from the scheme include Wellington Primary, Kalkfontein Primary, Cloetesville High, Battswood Primary, Florida School for Skills, Groenberg Secondary, Danie Ackerman Primary, Sid G. Rule Primary, Stratford Primary, Ysterplaat Junior Primary, Beacon Hill Secondary and Aberdare Primary.
"It is a proven fact that children who are hungry have trouble concentrating in school. Currently three out of four children in the Western Cape go to school hungry, which is over 326 600 per day in the region. We are extremely grateful for this generous donation and for Cipla Medpro's ongoing support in this fight," says Du Plessis.
He explains that hunger and malnutrition in schools has become an increasingly worrying concern throughout South Africa, fuelled by high unemployment rates and the rippling effects of HIV/AIDS.
For over 50 years, the PSFA has been providing meals to hungry children in primary, secondary and special-needs schools across the Western Province. Of the 326 600 that the organisation presently feeds, the Department of Education subsidises 296 600 children in 64 schools daily, while the PSFA covers the cost of feeding the difference of 30 000 children in 103 of the schools. "We are hard pressed to raise the necessary funds to feed the remaining 30 000 children, at an annual cost of R12 000 000, that do not receive the Department subsidy."
Rynard van der Westhuizen, Marketing Director of Cipla Medpro, says that education in South Africa is key to reaching vital skills development goals, in order to alleviate poverty and stimulate the country's economy. "These goals cannot be reached when so many children in the Western Cape are struggling to learn, not due to access to educational material, but simply because they're hungry."
The R1 million raised was assisted by the auctioning of various sponsored prizes, supported by a mix of well-known local sport and entertainment celebrities, which included among others, Ryk Neethling, Chester Williams, Breyton Paulse, Andries Bekker, Nico Panagio, Dr Michael Mol, Joe Pietersen and Toks van der Linde.
Cipla Medpro has been actively involved in fundraising for the PSFA since 2008. "By doubling last
year's donation figure of R500 000, we have delivered on our company's philosophy that 'we will make it better'. Going forward, we remain committed to this worthy cause as a socially responsible South African company," says Jerome Smith, Cipla CEO.
He urges other players in the private and corporate sectors to support the PSFA, as well as tackle the hunger issue on a national scale. "Nutritional deprivation among our school children is a growing problem that can be overcome, but only by increasing awareness and continued support."