Education MEC Debbie Schäfer
Education MEC Debbie Schäfer

Some schools ‘hide’ real number of infections, WCED told

By Okuhle Hlati Time of article published Sep 2, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - As it came to light that some schools were allegedly “hiding” Covid-19 cases, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has been urged to find measures that ensure transparency in reporting infections.

About 10 allegations of schools not reporting infections were brought to the attention of the department since the academic year started.

Of the 10 complaints, seven were found to be inaccurate.

Responding to questions at the Western Cape legislature last week, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said that schools reported cases daily to their district office which is then sent to head office.

“We rely on schools to report learner cases. The department is also aware that when a school reports that a learner has tested positive, this does not necessarily mean the learner acquired the infection at school,” she said.

WCED spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said complaints included two independent schools which were allegedly not aware that they had to report to the department, but this was addressed.

“We are aware of one public school that did not report two Covid cases to the WCED,” Hammond said.

“Given that the two cases had not been at school for a while, the school did not require decontamination. The principal therefore did not report the two cases to the WCED. Schools are, however, to still report it even when the school does not require decontamination.

“This was a misunderstanding of the procedures and not a deliberate attempt to ’hide’ the cases.This has been addressed and rectified,” said Hammond.

ANC provincial spokesperson on education Khalid Sayed, who put forward the questions, said his office has been inundated with many complaints about “hidden” Covid-19 infections in schools.

“It is concerning that the WCED opted to investigate only the reported cases and resolved issues at those particular schools.

“Under normal circumstances and under a competent MEC and department, there would be a widespread investigation and addressing the issue across all schools in the province.

“What is needed is a uniform approach to respond to cases in schools and this is not the case in the Western Cape. Schools continue as per usual after Covid-19 cases have been identified, schools are not disinfected or deep cleaned after cases have been identified.

“Only those classes and sections where the positive persons entered are cleaned, even this takes forever to happen,” said Sayed

Meanwhile, Beverley Davids, a parent of a Mondale High School Grade 12 learner, who spoke to the media regarding pupils allegedly being forced to attend class while being Covid-positive, has said her daughter is now being victimised.

“The bullying started last week after the school principal went to her classroom and informed the learners that a Halloween event he was planning for them next month was cancelled because of me and my daughter who spoke to the media,” she said.

Hammond, who speaks on the school’s behalf, said: “The district office is engaging with the parent and the school directly to resolve the matter and address the allegations of bullying. The district has also offered counselling services to the learner.”

Cape Times

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