In a significant move to combat poor nutrition among young children, Real Reform for ECD unveiled its Right to Nutrition campaign. The campaign aims to secure the provision of adequate nutrition for all eligible young children attending early learning programmes in South Africa, fostering their holistic development.
The Right to Nutrition campaign was launched on Friday, November 3, at the community hall in Finetown, Johannesburg, with the First Lady of South Africa, Dr. Tshepo Motsepe serving as the keynote speaker.
Real Reform for ECD (RR4ECD), a movement dedicated to advocating for holistic, well-funded, inclusive, and quality early childhood development services for all children, has been at the forefront of championing for a legal and policy environment that is conducive for the growth and expansion of ECD services. The Right to Nutrition campaign is a direct outcome of rigorous research conducted by three research task teams. Their research delved into understanding the right to nutrition, defining what constitutes adequate nutrition, and exploring ways for the Department of Basic Education (DBE) to implement a robust ECD nutrition programme.
(The Nutrition Research Series can be accessed here).
The campaign calls on the DBE to provide nutrition support to all eligible children attending an early learning programme, regardless of whether the programme is registered or not. “We must not neglect the most vulnerable children, especially those at unregistered programmes, who stand the most to gain from nutrition support,” said RR4ECD coordinator, Tshepo Mantje, summing up the call to action for the campaign.
“By launching this campaign, we hope to raise awareness about the importance of early childhood nutrition and the possibility of an ECD nutrition programme, similar to the National Schools Nutrition Programme by the DBE which feeds about 9 million poor learners in primary and secondary schools daily,” say the organisers.
Dr Motsepe shared her hopes for the campaign: “It’s our collective duty to ensure that our young children of South African are given every opportunity to thrive. It is their fundamental right to have access to adequate nutrition. I acknowledge the role that the Department of Basic Education must play in providing adequate nutrition to our children across all communities in SA. The success of this campaign is reliant on the collaborative efforts and unwavering support from both government and non- governmental organisations.”
She added: “This is a call for action that extends to all stakeholders related to the ECD sector – development care and nutrition of their children. The right to nutrition is non-negotiable. May our collective efforts bring love and nourishment to the future generations of South Africa – one nutritious meal at a time.”
The main event was a panel discussion featuring a Q&A session. The panel featured research representatives Kayin Scholtz from Umnedi, Anna-Marie Müller of the DG Murray Trust, and Tatiana Kazim from the Equal Education Law Centre, alongside Nonhlanhla Dzingwa, an ECD Principal from Orange Farm, Carina Müller, the Chief Education Specialist at the Department of Basic Education, and Ruby Motaung, the Director of Tree-ECD. [Detailed biographies of the panelists are available here]
Carina Müller of the DBE shared some good news with the room. “The DBE will be launching a Pilot soon to test how they can ensure adequate nutrition support to early learning programmes. The Pilot will most likely include more rural provinces” – she explained.
Real Reform for ECD’s coordinator, Tshepo Mantje welcomed this development and hopes that the research produced by this campaign will support the DBE to develop an ECD national nutrition programme. He called upon the DBE to extend nutrition support to all eligible children in early learning programmes, stressing the importance of not overlooking the needs of children in unregistered programmes.
The campaign launch event united ECD partners in addressing the alarming levels of childhood hunger and malnutrition.
RR4ECD is a broad-based alliance advocating for holistic, well-funded, inclusive, and quality early childhood development (ECD) services. It supports a broad network of over 600 practitioners and is backed by more than 200 organisations. For more information, visit RR4ECD’s website.
Photography credit: Fikile Marakalla/GCIS