Matric exam markers need time to isolate, says teachers’ union
Durban - THE National Teachers’ Union (Natu) wants the reopening of schools for educators to be pushed back in a bid to give those who had been marking matric exams scripts time to isolate before sending them into a school environment.
Since March till December the Department of Education had lost 95 staff members due to Covid-19 and 59 of these were teachers.
The department has announced schools in the country would reopen for pupils on 15 February.
Draft directives for the reopening of schools put together by the department says all primary school pupils will return on 15 February while secondary school pupils would return on a staggered attendance timetable on the same day.
It says schools’ management, education assistants, general assistants and non teaching staff return on Monday, 25 January, while educators are to return on 1 February.
Natu's general secretary Cynthia Barnes said they wanted management to return on 8 February while educators returned on 10 February.
"Our opinion is that if we open schools now most of the teachers including those from secondary schools have just come from marking. You might find some of them have been infected and need time to be isolated for them to go back to school. If they are going to rush things then we will find schools will be the top spreaders. We are not against schools opening but we are looking at the virus itself, it's still at a peak," she said.
Barnes said what also concerned them was that teachers were going back to schools two weeks before pupils.
"Why is there this staggering (the 25 and 1st)? That is because the work they are being given is supposed to be done by the department provincially and nationally, the teachers are there to do their duties accordingly. If maybe the time was going to be used for orientation of the new curriculum as well as purchasing of books that would be understandable but there's money that has been given for this," Barnes said.
She said other schools in the province would have issues with social distancing as some of their mobile classrooms had been taken away while others had mobile ablution facilities that were also taken away as the department had allegedly not paid for these.
Barnes said three teachers had died from Covid-19 that were at marking centres in the province, one of them from Inanda.
"Did they test the teachers or just screen them? Can they stand on one foot and say the teachers came with the virus to the centres, to screen a teacher does not mean you have tested them. This is because the temperature itself cannot denote whether you are infected or not," she said.
Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the mobile ablution facilities and classrooms that Barnes referred to were taken away in a bid to protect them while schools were closed.
"They were paid for at the time they were used," said Mahlambi.
He said teachers at marking centres were at first screened and when it was noticed there were cases at marking centres, rapid tests were introduced.