Johannesburg - More than 1 650 teachers died due to Covid-19 related complications between March 2020 and February this year.
This was revealed by Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga when she addressed the media in Pretoria, on Saturday, about the state of readiness schools ahead of the third term’s opening, on Monday.
Motshekga used her address to update the nation on the vaccination of teachers and other staff members in the education sector.
“The vaccination programme was important to ensure that schooling gets back on track in one way or another. Based on the analysis by Professor Martin Gustafsson from the DBE, using information from monthly PERSAL downloads between the end of March 2020 and the end of February 2022, one thousand, six hundred and seventy-eight (1 678) deaths, can be considered the modest figure available for the number of publicly employed educators, who lost their lives to Covid-19,” she said.
In addition to the deaths of many other education employees, a Head of Department in the Eastern Cape, a MEC in the Northern Cape, and the President of NATU, the Sector is bleeding from devastating learning losses.
“Every study that has been conducted, shows that a generational catastrophe is unfolding in front of our eyes daily. Something had to be done and still needs to be done to arrest the academic losses,” Motshekga said.
She said, as far as vaccination plans were concerned, the education sector had targeted five hundred and eighty-two thousand (582 000) personnel in the Basic Education Sector; and that when the vaccination programme was closed, formally, they had five hundred and seventeen thousand (517 000) people, who have received the vaccines – an 89% vaccination success rate - on their books.
“Reports on the reasons for outstanding numbers, include distance to vaccination sites, vaccination hesitancy, preference of one type of vaccine to another, recent positive Covid-19 results, as well as medical and religious reasons, all account for some of the people, who are still not vaccinated.
“Encouraging is the fact that we continue to receive requests for assistance from some of our personnel, who were initially hesitant, but now are coming forward to ask for help to get the vaccines. We still hope that educators not yet vaccinated, will join the general population vaccination programmes that are under way,” Motshekga said.
She further said: “We extend our appreciation for the professional service we received at vaccination sites, from the start to the end of the programme. Teacher unions, organised labour and national governing bodies in the Sector played a phenomenal role. Helping with the advocacy, vaccination education as well as information, and leading from the front. Their support and assistance, as unions, contributed enormously towards the success of the programme. For that, I wish to thank them most sincerely.
“I also wish to thank our education entities, such as Umalusi, the South African Council for Educators (SACE), the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC), and different civil society organisations, working in the education space,” Motshekga said.