Education Department has no proper plan for Covid-19 positive matric student writing final exams, teacher union says
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Durban - Teacher unions are standing firm on the issue that no that teacher should not be forced to invigilate Covid-19 positive National Senior Certificate candidates.
Although the department's plan is to use healthcare workers to invigilate the examinations, the National Teachers Union (NATU) has lashed out on the lack of proper planning behind the Basic Education Department’s plan for Covid-19 positive pupils to write the examinations at quarantine centres and clinics.
This, after an urgent meeting between Basic Education Director General Mathanzima Mweli and teachers unions on Friday ended without a satisfactory plan that would ensure the safety of teachers.
On Thursday, the Department of Basic Education announced that Covid-19 positive matric candidates would be allowed to write at matric centres.
NATU general secretary Cynthia Barnes said during the meeting it became clear that the department did not have a proper plan and had made the decision without considering the safety of teachers or the pupils in the rural areas.
Barnes said the department’s plan was that teachers would be expected to invigilate in the quarantine centres or in the clinics that have been identified, but not forced.
“The plan also involves bringing in nurses to work as exams invigilators in these quarantine centres and clinics. We questioned whether nurses are skilled to work in the exam room, and the response we got was that they will be trained. To us, this did not make sense because these are plans that should have been done before the exams begun,” said Barnes.
She said the department also plans to use a clinic and identify quarantine venues for Covid-19 positive pupils to write, but the issue that the union had was that not all schools are in close proximity with clinics.
“Again this plan tells us that the department did not consider rural schools when it made this plan, but only considered urban areas. As it is entering week two of the examinations and there is no list of the identified centres, schools do not know where to take the pupils with Covid-19 symptoms,”said Barnes.
She said the unions have nothing against Covid-19 positive pupils writing the examinations, saying that it infact it became clear from the meeting that unions welcomed efforts to ensure that no pupil is compromised because of their Covid-19 status.
Barnes said it has come to their attention that some of their members in three provinces were last week forced to invigilate Covid-19 pupils and were allegedly treated that they would not be paid their salaries if they refused to invigilate.
Barnes said NATU will investigate the allegation and urged its members not to allow the department to force them into coming into contact with Covid-19 positive pupils.
“We urge those teachers to get tested and place themselves under isolation for ten days as per the laws of those who have contact with Covid-19 positive patients,” she said.
The South african Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) called on the department not to force teachers to invigilate in the quarantine centers, but use health professionals.
SADTU general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke said the current health protocols, the department has the obligation to provide an isolation site with both psychological and health support at the isolation and quarantine site.
“Should the parent decide that the pupil continues with the writing of the examination, that should happen at the isolation site, under the invigilation of a health personnel”.