REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

Keep schools open, vaccinate teachers - Teachers union

By Nathan Craig, Siyabonga Mkhwanazi Time of article published Jun 20, 2021

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Schools are to remain open and all teachers will be vaccinated by July 8, but stakeholders in the sector will be keeping an eagle eye on the department to ensure they remain on the straight and narrow.

Briefing the media on the impact of Covid-19 on schools in the country yesterday, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said following the advice from medical experts and a meeting with education MECS, school governing bodies, unions and principals, all had agreed schools should remain open.

There are more than 25000 schools in the country and closing all of them could result in an academic disaster, the minister said, adding that they would monitor the situation on a weekly basis, and treat each school on a case-by-case basis.

“Doing business under Covid-19 means one needs to strike a balance between saving lives and livelihoods. We believe that schools must remain open and, in saying so, we are not insensitive to the concerns raised about the rising infections. We are guided by the Ministerial Advisory Committee, National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet in the fight against Covid,” said Motshekga.

She conceded that the education sector had been disrupted but said the department would stick to its initial decision to allow all primary school learners to return to school on July 26 for the resumption of the third term.

Motshekga said 582 000 teaching staff would be vaccinated over a twoweek period, regardless of their age. The roll-out will start on Wednesday and conclude on July 8, the day prior to school closures for the end of term.

“For the next two weeks, we make the clarion call to our school communities to drop all and vaccinate. In order for us to successfully complete this programme, we will need to keep schools open. Any disruptions would be undesirable,” said Motshekga.

The department has already secured more than 300 000 vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson.

The SA Democratic Teachers Union spokesperson Nomusa Cembi said they did not oppose the department’s decision. “We note the announcement by the minister. We are not opposing it but will continue to keep engaging the Department of Basic Education, based on the escalation of transmissions.”

Thirona Moodley, chief executive of National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA in KZN, welcomed the minister’s announcement, calling vaccinations in the education sector a step in the right direction.

“Our teachers must be protected to function optimally bringing about stability for all learners to return to school and minimising learning losses. Support staff and administrators are integral to the functioning of the school and we welcome their being vaccinated.” she said.

Moodley said meticulous planning and collaboration between the health and education departments was crucial.

“The time frames are tight, KZN has the largest number of employees in the country with more than 107 000, and the size and rural nature of the province could prove challenging, but not insurmountable.”

National general secretary and KZN president of the SA Principals’ Association Linda Shezi said they were grateful the vaccination plan was inclusive.

“The fear would have been to have schools divided into those which were and were not vaccinated but that’s no longer an issue. Now we plan to keep a keen eye on the logistics and planning from the department to keep them honest and on schedule,” she said.

Sunday Tribune

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