Muslim parents have taken a Kuils River school governing body (SGB) to task for appointing a caterer without halaal certification.
The Western Cape Sports School, along Nooiensfontein Road, has come under fire from the parents of nine pupils who claim their children have been consuming food not permissible for Muslims, for the past two weeks.
The pupils live at the hostel and are usually served three meals a day.
Star Caterers, based in Khayelitsha, have signed a five-year contract with the school and started operating there on October 1.
However, the parents say the SGB did not tell parents that the caterer was appointed on October 1 and they are demanding a formal apology and threatening to take legal action.
The caterers said they applied to the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) on Monday, October 21, and are waiting to be certified.
One of the parents, Nadia Mayman said she heard of the new caterers on Monday October 7 and immediately called her son and ordered that he stop eating the food until he could confirm that the caterer was serving halaal meals.
“My son then asked the caterer if he is serving halaal food and was told that it is not his business. This means his rights have been violated.”
She said after arranging to meet with the school’s principal on Tuesday October 8, the SGB decided that all Muslim pupils would receive their meals from the halaal-certified tuckshop until the caterers received their certification.
However, she said, her son then complained about being hungry because the tuckshop only opens more than two hours after school starts.
“This has added a financial burden on all parents that are affected because we had to either fetch our kids or bring packed breakfast meals for the whole week, which is out of the budget.”
She said while the school fees of R2 500 for the year was reasonable, it cost nearly R8 000 more to live in the hostel.
“Through this whole emotional and stressful process, the school has just been unapologetic which is a disgrace. They have an SMS system, where they can let us know about meetings and events but could not tell us about the new caterers or even send an apology,” said Ms Mayman.
Gadjija Samaai said parents had lodged a formal grievance with the SGB and wanted them to be “transparent” as they still didn’t know why the school would not tell parents about new caterers.
“Considering the fact that the principal is Muslim, how did they not look into this before appointing the caterers so we are still in the dark about how this all happened?” she asked.
SGB chairperson, James Katelo said: “There was no room for alerting the parents because we needed a caterer to start right away but this situation has blown out of control and most of it is lies and fabricated things.”
He said the school knew that the caterer was not halaal-certified but was not serving pork to the children and the caterers were in the process of becoming halaal certified.
Asked if the principal was aware of the matter, he said, “Yes, the principal sat in the interview with the SGB and the caterers.”
He claimed that appointing the caterers was not the issue but that “racism is the matter at hand”.
Director of Star Caterers, NhoNho Mtakatya said he was waiting for the MJC to inspect his workspace so that he could “finally” be certified.
He said he had informed the school about not being certified but explained that his suppliers were halaal.
“We get our meats from Muslim butcheries and halaal-certified places. We did not give the learners un-halaal foods,” he said.
He said he continued to serve the other pupils their meals three times a day.
In the meantime, he said, he had employed a Muslim cook but the Muslim pupils still refused to eat the food.
Director of Halaal Trust at the MJC, Sheikh Achmat Sedick said that at a meeting held on October 17, the caterers had been encouraged to get certified as soon as possible.
He added that it could take two to 10 days before they are certified, depending how long it took for their paperwork to be sorted out.
Western Cape Education Department spokesperson, Bronagh Hammond said the halaal tuckshop at the school was an alternative until the investigation, done by the department, had been concluded.