With the confirmation of the third patient with Covid-19 virus in South Africa, the Health Department is waiting to ascertain whether six other people who recently travelled to Italy have the disease. File Picture: IANS
With the confirmation of the third patient with Covid-19 virus in South Africa, the Health Department is waiting to ascertain whether six other people who recently travelled to Italy have the disease. File Picture: IANS

'Confused' public school teachers want clear message from government about coronavirus

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Mar 10, 2020

Share this article:

Johannesburg - Teachers at public schools say they are confused and have no idea what to do in case of a coronavirus scare at their schools. 

This comes as the country has confirmed at least seven people testing positive for the virus. The seven were all from a group of 10 people who recently travelled to Italy on holiday.

The teachers alluded to confusion about coronavirus protocols in statements from the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and another from the National Teachers Union (Natu). 

Natu president Allen Thompson said teachers - which include principals at schools - were inundated with queries from concerned parents about the measures they should take to safeguard their children from the virus. Teachers had no idea what to tell parents, he said. 

“Whereas we understand that no guarantees can be given to anyone concerning the virus, these enquiries suggest to us that there is still an information vacuum about (a) the transmission and spread of this virus, and (b) the measures which the government has taken (and continues to take) to mitigate the spread of the virus,” said Thompson. 

Thompson said there was a need for teachers to be provided with guidance regarding how they should respond to parents queries about the virus. 

“Certainly, an appropriately formulated communique will be better than leaving responses to the discretion of local authorities or individual teachers. We therefore call upon the Minister of Basic Education to look into this matter with some urgency and assist teachers manage this ‘Corona mania’ before things get out of hand,” said Thompson.

But the Department of Education has washed its hands of the situation, directing all queries to the Department of Health. 

“The IMT (inter-ministerial task team) on coronavirus met yesterday (Monday) and it was agreed that a protocol to provide guidance to the different sectors must be developed by the NICD (National Institute for communicable diseases) and DoH,” said DBE spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga on Tuesday.

He said the virus was not a school matter, but instead a national one which was being handled by the health department. 

Several unsuccessful attempts were made to get comment from the health department.

Mugwena Maluleke, Sadtu’s secretary-general, told Talk Radio 702 that the unions 267 000 teachers were confused and did not know what to do as they had received no communication from the DBE.

Maluleke admitted to 702’s Bongani Bingwa that there was some confusion about what needed to be done and told to parents as there had been no instruction received from Pretoria. 

The confusion comes after at least two private schools were closed because of teachers, parents or pupils being exposed to the virus in the recent days. 

The first school to shut its doors was Cowan Preparatory School in the KZN Midlands, where the children had been exposed to a positively tested dad, and this was followed by Grayston Preparatory in Joburg, where the teacher had been exposed to one of the affected seven. 

Meanwhile, the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa said it had started issuing communications to schools and teachers since February. The bodym which represents a lof the country's privately run schools, said it had issued another comprehensive communication to schools and teachers on Friday last week, a day after the country confirmed its first coronavirus case.

The minister appeared to criticise the move by the private schools to temporarily shut schools down as a precaution.

IOL

Share this article: