Gauteng hopes to vaccinate 125 934 education sector workers in 10 days
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Johannesburg - The vaccination of about 582 000 teachers and school staff across the country commenced on Wednesday, with a few minor glitches reported in Gauteng and Free State.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, Deputy Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla and Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi kicked off the first day of the education sector vaccination drive at the Rabasotho community hall in Tembisa, Ekurhuleni where Lesufi also received his jab.
Speaking to the media in Tembisa, Motshekga said she was elated, encouraged and hopeful that the sector would have all 582 000 staff vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by July 8.
“We placed the timeline. We need two weeks because we don’t want to disrupt school and when we close on July 8, we want to be done. That’s why we put ourselves under so much pressure and I’ve also asked union leaders to work with us,” she said.
Lesufi said the department was happy with the progress made at Gauteng’s 60 vaccination sites as no major glitches were reported, besides a few challenges quickly attended to.
He said the Pfizer vaccines meant for 60-year-olds at a vaccination site in Johannesburg South were mistakenly taken to the teachers’ vaccination site after to a communication breakdown. The matter was attended to.
“If you check, the (infection) numbers that are increasing in our schools, you will see that it is very important that we protect our educators. Every learner comes from a family and goes back to that family and you don’t want the child to be carrying the virus to the family. If you can protect the children, you can protect everyone,” Lesufi said.
More than 125 934 workers in the education sector in Gauteng are expected to get vaccinated in the 10 days. Of that total, 71 726 are educators at Gauteng public schools and 24 492 are non-educators such as clerks, food handlers and teacher union staff.
The Gauteng Department of Education said 10 488 School Governing Body-appointed educators and Grade R practitioners in public schools were also eligible for the shots. The remainder – 19 678 – is made up of educators from independent schools.
“We have to continue to send a strong message to the people of our province that we are under attack. The statistics we have doesn’t even show that we’ve reached the peak, which means we will increase our numbers and therefore we have to do something to reduce these numbers and protect the province,” Lesufi said.
DA Gauteng spokesperson Khume Ramulifho urged all teachers and support staff to get vaccinated to avoid any further disruption of schooling.
“The DA shares the concerns of parents and different stakeholders that the Covid-19 pandemic is severely affecting the education sector. However, we do not support the idea to shut down schools,” Ramulifho said.
National Professional Teachers' Organisation of SA executive director Basil Manuel said the union was excited about how the vaccination programme started.
He said that in the afternoon, he received reports from most of the provinces and the only place that had a hiccup was in the Free State.
“In Bloemfontein, we saw an overcrowded situation happen where too many schools seemed to have been called at the same time and as a result there was a bit of a crush of people,” Manuel said. He added that officials addressed the issue and expect it to be sorted out before the programme continues today.