Rapid Covid-19 tests for KZN matric markers
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Durban - The KwaZulu Natal Department of Education said it would be performing rapid Covid-19 tests on teachers deployed to matric marking centres.
Department spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said the department started the rapid tests yesterday and testing would take place at all centres.
This comes after teacher unions had urged the department to take a much more direct approach to contain the disease after a marker from a centre in Estcourt died of Covid-19 this past weekend.
The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) said there had been clear breaches in the department’s Covid-19 prevention protocols and it needed to implement much stricter steps and not rely on people’s conscience to report illness. It said they (teachers) might be “tempted” by the financial benefits of marking and keep quiet.
Sadtu provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said “the department needs to do a rapid test on all the markers to make sure that all are clear, it is clear that the Estcourt centre is compromised.
“We have learnt from the family of the marker who died that even before she went to the centre, she was having difficulty breathing. It is clear that checking the temperature alone is not working as some people’s temperature might remain normal; even if they are infected,” she said.
Caluza also urged the markers not to put the “benefits” of being a marker above their health.
The department said nine other markers who had been in close contact with the female marker who died had been placed in isolation.
Mahlambi said the department conveyed its condolences to the family and friends of the marker.
He added that the department was in contact with the Department of Health on how to contain the situation including decontamination of the centre.
Provincial chief executive of National Professional Teachers' Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) Thirona Moodley said they were saddened by the death of the marker.
“It’s really sad to see someone lose one’s life while executing their duties so diligently. Naptosa has been engaging with the Department of Education regarding the death of the marker, we were assured that all who were in contact with the marker were isolated.”
She said the fear among the markers was heightened after they became aware of the death of the marker.
“The department had put all that was reasonable in place to ensure the safety of the markers. However, there can be no guarantees as markers may mark despite knowing they are Covid-positive or maybe asymptomatic.
“Markers must be aware of those around them and keep close contact with other markers to a minimum, this will ensure that any tracking and tracing that may be required can be done as accurately as possible,” she said.
Moodley said they expected the department to act swiftly when such reports are received, to limit the exposure to the infected person as soon as possible and identify all who had been in contact with the infected person.
“(We) hope that all markers will adhere to the strict safety protocols expected of them as their health is also their responsibility,” she said.
The national Department of Basic Education (DBE) said more than 170 markers and teachers who were due to mark matric exam papers had tested positive for the coronavirus as of January 7.
Most of the markers who tested positive came from the Eastern Cape, where testing was done before accepting markers into the testing centres, followed by Mpumalanga, which had nine markers test positive after reporting to marking centres, and Gauteng with six cases.
Limpopo, the Northern Cape and the North West each had three markers who tested positive after reporting to the marking centres, while KwaZulu-Natal reported four cases, including the marker who died.
The DBE said the department had deployed reserve markers to replace about 1 683 markers, mostly from Gauteng, who withdrew from the marking process for, among other reasons, the fear of contracting the virus, comorbidities and bereavement.
“The provincial education departments (PEDs) have a set of reserve markers who have already been used to replace markers since PEDs appointed between 10% and 15% research markers for each paper. Where PEDs choose not to replace the markers, they could extend the marking for up to 18 days. This has already been planned as a contingency as it was expected that there could be marker shortages in some papers due to declines,” the department said.
The DBE said it would continue to monitor the marking centres closely to ensure that all risks were addressed appropriately.