Nearly 90 bags of maize meal have been left to rot at an Omusati school after parents refused to volunteer as cooks as part of the school-feeding programme.
As a result, 87 bags of maize meal at Ben Hauwanga Combined School had to be sold off to pig farmers in the area.
Parents – whose children are attending the school – have accused school principal Selly Simeon of having a bad attitude towards them and staff members.
They claimed his “bad attitude” is untenable and that has left them with no choice but to boycott cooking turns to feed the pupils.
Simeon confirmed to New Era that 87 bags of maize meal were found to be not fit for human consumption, adding a decision was then made to sell the expired food to local farmers instead of discarding
He denied taking the decision unilaterally, saying he followed all procedures.
“There is tension between me and the community members, and there are those who are difficult to work with and most of them hardly participate in school activities,” he said.
He said through the channel of communication, which involves consulting committee members, the inspector of education and officials that deal with food at regional level, the school was granted two options – to either destroy the expired food by burning it, or sell it to the certified pig farmers in the area to generate income that can be used to supplement the feeding programme at the school.
Simeon, however, explained that he will not by any means disclose proceeds generated from the sale, saying those who want proof can approach the school’s office.
“We have a very big problem of parents who refuse to participate in any school activities including voluntarily cooking for the learners. We only have four individuals that are willing to cook for the learners and when they get tired, the whole process comes to a standstill. And that is exactly what happened now. When the volunteers came back to start again after resting, they notified us about the food being expired,” he said.
“We were just given two options and we opted for one. We were not able to give expired food to members of the community with the fear that they are likely to consume it and that will cause problems.”
The principal also accused some community members of discouraging the teachers to perform their duties with their unruly behaviour.
“The behaviour of some people in this community are known by the traditional authorities and the police in the region. We have approached those authorities to help us educate the people about the importance of parental influence in education. However up until now, there is no positive change,” he explained.
He said that so far the school has lost about eight teachers due to the conduct of some community members.
Acting director of education in the Omusati region, Shali Kankondi explained that every school has a school-feeding programme committee that is entrusted to deal with food issues.
“It is that committee that was supposed to report the expired food to the health inspectors in the region. The health inspector then had to certify that indeed the food is not fit for human consumption, and it can either be destroyed or be sold for money that can be used for school activities,” he explained.
He further outlined that the decision does not come from the principal alone, but the school-feeding programme committee.
Approached for comment Saara Matjina, who is a committee member, dismissed Simeon’s allegation of approaching the committee for authority, saying she heard it from the community.
“I only got to know it through text messages from people who enquired from us if we are selling food at school,” she said.
Another committee member Simon Kalumbu also told New Era that they were not informed of any process of selling food.
He said he heard that one bag was sold for N$30 to a local businessman and other teachers.