School desks apart to promote social distancing. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)
School desks apart to promote social distancing. Picture Courtney Africa/African News Agency(ANA)

Education authorities concerned about deaths of teachers due to Covid-19

By Thami Magubane Time of article published Dec 30, 2020

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Durban - The Department of Basic Education says it is concerned whether there will be enough teachers in classrooms when schools reopen next year as a number of educators have succumbed to Covid-19.

Basic Education director-general Mathanzima Mweli said in a video statement yesterday that the deaths of teachers were alarming.

“The immediate impact of this will be on marking and on teaching and learning when schools reopen. We are extremely worried about the impact this will have when the schools reopen for the 2021 academic year,” he said.

Mweli said the department would ensure that the matric-marking centres were safe through strict adherence to safety protocols.

“We have increased the number of monitors in our marking centres. My plan is to visit every marking centre across the country so that when I report to the minister and the MECs, I would not just be relaying what has been conveyed to me. I should have walked through the experience of what is taking place in every marking centre.”

A report compiled by the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education on Covid-19 deaths and infections showed it had lost 95 staff in total between March and December 24, with 59 of these being teachers.

The breakdown of statistics per district in the report showed that uMgungundlovu had been most hard hit and had lost 11 teachers, one school administration clerk and two officials.

In the Ugu District, 10 teachers have died and one house mother.

In the uMzinyathi district, eight teachers have died; in the King Cetshwayo district, eight teachers and one official have died; and in Pinetown, seven teachers, two officials and two support staff have died.

In Ilembe, five teachers and one security guard have died and in uMlazi district, five teachers and one official have died.

The total number of infections was 3 258.

KZN Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said it was painful to have lost so many staff and pleaded with teachers and other staff to ensure that they kept safe.

At least one teachers’ union said it believed the number of teachers who have died in KZN due to Covid-19 could be under stated, as they continued to receive daily reports of teachers that have died as a result of the disease.

Scelo Bhengu of the Educators’ Union of South Africa said the figures reported by the KZN Education department appeared to be too low.

“We received daily reports of teachers who have died, yesterday we received reports that five teachers in KwaMashu died.”

Sadtu provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said since December 15 when the schools closed, they had lost 73 teachers.

“This is not hearsay, this is information that is coming from our different regions and is backed by the names of those that passed. The number could rise much higher than this because two regions are yet to give us their reports, but we fear the outstanding numbers could be in the 20s as that is what some regions have been reporting.”

She said they were fearful of what will happen if the Covid-19 cases were not under control when the schools reopened. “We are very concerned about this virus as it spreads fast and kills fast.”

Thirona Moodley, of the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, said it would have a clear indication of the impact of Covid-19 on its members when the schools reopened next year.

The Mercury

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