Ashton Schools, Western Cape
The Tiger Brands Foundation in-school breakfast feeding programme has been implemented in six primary schools in Ashton, Western Cape. The little town lies in the picturesque foothills of the Langeberg Mountains; a luscious valley famous for its great wines and fruit. The beauty of the area is breathtaking, yet the communities living here face enormous challenges and a difficult socio-economic environment.
There are limited employment opportunities as the work is spread across wine or fruit farms and the canning factory in Ashton. Employment is seasonal commencing in November and running through to March/April. Out of season periods leaves much of the community without an income and facing bitterly cold conditions through the winter months. It is an area weighed down by poverty, regular unemployment, high levels of alcoholism, recurring cases of TB, poor health, drug abuse and constant food insecurity for months at a time.
The 6 schools in Ashton where the Foundation now serves the in-school breakfast feeding programme are small farm schools positioned between the farms in the area. The schools share common problems and also specific difficulties but, each school has something unique in their approach to providing the best possible educational environment for their learners. The common issues can be summarized as follows;
- Children born with AFS (alcohol foetal syndrome) are enrolled in all the schools. They struggle with basic tasks and seldom progress beyond a certain level of comprehension;
- Malnutrition has lead to stunting amongst many learners and poor nutrition is widespread – July and December holidays are periods of major concern for principals;
- Alcoholism severely impacts school attendance particularly on Mondays and frequently on Tuesdays. It further contributes to the food insecurity within the community;
- Limited or non-existent parental involvement in homework or school work. The level of literacy in the area is undetermined as traditionally many of the parents left school at a very young age;
- TB infections are especially high with the lack of good nutrition and alcoholism impeding the effective treatment of this illness resulting in recurring cases in families and the community in general;
- Seasonal farm work is customarily done by the men in the area, however, a death or dismissal means the family must relocate almost immediately. This impacts the learners as often the move is to an informal settlement where access to school is more difficult.
Limited resources combined with the local socio-economic issues pose a bigger challenge for the principals, school management and governing bodies. The introduction of the breakfast feeding to complement the government’s National Schools Nutrition Programme lunch has had a significant impact on the learners and their families.
- The breakfast programme together with the NSNP lunch guarantees the learners 2 nutritious meals per day;
- Absenteeism and late arrivals has dropped significantly;
- Academic performance, concentration and the ability to absorb their lessons has improved across the board. Schools have also noted a far higher level of physical activity encouraging healthier learners in general;
- Parents are supportive and appreciative of the feeding programme. Schools have noted an improvement in parental involvement in general school activities;
- A couple of schools benefit from ongoing support from farmers within their school district which has enabled the school to offer more to their learners (ranging from financial assistance for the school to providing afterschool care to their learners);
- After-school interventions have been introduced into the schools to address alcohol & substance abuse, domestic violence, sexual abuse, academic & sport programmes have been more successful with more learners participating as the schools can offer an additional meal. The interventions effectively serve 2 purposes; learners are given valuable life skills and knowledge plus overall improved nutrition levels;
- The schools have streamlined their feeding process to ensure the meals are served efficiently with minimum disruption and unnecessary food wastage. The food handlers working in the schools maintain spotless kitchens, prepare breakfast and lunch with loving care and at the allotted time for serving. In so doing, the schools have found an additional area to support their communities by sharing any extra food supplies with parents and families;
- Transport to the schools provided by the Department of Education means learners are no longer walking long distances to get to school. It has also reduced the number of deaths and accidents for learners.
In-school feeding has become a necessity throughout the world, not only in South Africa. The cycle of poverty and unemployment can only be addressed through a complete education and in order to achieve this, projects focussed on giving our disadvantaged learners a help up are critical.
Our in-school breakfast programme in partnership with the Department of Basic Education has proved invaluable and extremely beneficial in all the schools where we work. However, it must be noted the active and passionate commitment by the principals, school management, school governing bodies, food handlers and the Foundation Project Coordinators is the vital ingredient required to create a truly effective feeding programme.
Vlakteplaas UCC Primary School, Western Cape
Vlakteplaas UCC Primary School has a heartbeat and spirit unlike any other school – it has an unusual history and champion behind the school. Learners come from the community living in the valley of the Swartberg Mountains, east of Oudtshoorn in the Western Cape. It is remote, isolated from the modern world and the natural beauty of the mountains is extraordinary.
Like many communities in this region; unemployment, poverty, alcoholism, malnutrition and poor health present great challenges to the families who live here. Vlakteplaas UCC Primary School was completely rebuilt in 2005 and this beautifully built little school represents a warm haven to the learners in the area. Their passionate champion, Jans Rautenbach undertook the rebuilding with a dream to create the best rural school in the country. His dream is now a reality and ‘Oom Jans’ as he is affectionately referred to is a daily visitor inspiring the school management team and learners alike.
As a renowned film maker in South Africa, ‘Oom Jans’ found support amongst friends who now teach free classes in art and music at the school on a weekly basis. The learners enjoy a busy school day followed by sport and cultural activities – not only offering a holistic approach to their education but more importantly, limiting their exposure to unsafe activities and environments.
The Tiger Brands Foundation in-school breakfast feeding programme was implemented here in January 2013. Providing the learners with breakfast every school day has given ‘Oom Jans’ and the enthusiastic school management team the chance to focus on school maintenance, projects and development of the learners as they navigate their way through primary school. This partnership represents an ideal balance as the principal and educators encourage the learners’ academic performance and the Foundation nourishes their young growing minds.
What further separates Vlakteplaas UCC from other schools is the loyalty of past learners. It is common to see past learners attending sports day or other events happy to join current learners and to share their lives after leaving this school; evidence of the spirit cultivated within the safe haven of Vlakteplaas UCC which fosters a lifelong commitment to stay in touch and connected.
‘Oom Jans’ at almost 80 has remarkable energy and he is deeply passionate about the school, the learners and their families. He works tirelessly to support the principal and educators to make each day a happy productive one. Not easily achieved when the learners live in very difficult circumstances – the Foundation is proud of its contribution to their well-being and improved nutrition.
The Tiger Brands Foundation in-school breakfast feeding programme has been implemented in eight primary schools in Gouda, Western Cape. Gouda is a settlement in the Cape Winelands District Municipality in the Western Cape that is believed to be named after a town in Holland.
Residents in the area are predominantly farmers and seasonal workers who work on peach, grape and banana farms in the district. Unfortunately out of season periods for farming leave a large number of the Gouda population without any income.
Gouda is also home to the Sishen Solar Facility and Acciona Energía’s first wind farm in South Africa – both partners of the Tiger Brands Foundation and Department of Basic Education. Through its partnership with the Foundation and the DBE Acciona is able to provide over 3 000 school learners in surrounding communities with breakfast.