Parents register their children at the General Smuts High School in Vereeniging yesterday. 
   Itumeleng English African News Agency (ANA)
Parents register their children at the General Smuts High School in Vereeniging yesterday. 
 Itumeleng English African News Agency (ANA)

Teachers forced to choose between jobs and safety amid rising Covid-19 cases at school

By Khaya Koko Time of article published Jul 9, 2020

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Terrified teachers forced to work at a Covid-19 hit Gauteng school are being made to choose their jobs ahead of personal safety after rising coronavirus cases went unreported.

Vereeniging’s General Smuts High School principal has allegedly concealed a spike in infections and threatened staff paid by the school’s governing body (SGB) with “no work, no pay” if fees are lost through closure.

Allegations are that principal Morena Mohapi has not followed hygiene procedures and opted not to inform the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) that four teachers and a Grade 12 learner tested positive for the killer disease over the past week.

One teacher is in critical condition in hospital suffering from respiratory distress, while two others are quarantined at the school’s hostel that caters for more than 120 learners.

Altogether, General Smuts has more than 1 200 learners.

Mohapi, sources said, only closed the Grade 12 learner’s classroom and had not begun decontamination of the school or informed GDE officials to come and conduct a risk assessment.

The principal is also accused of threatening SGB-paid staff with “no work, no pay” if the school is forced to close for decontamination.

“SGB staff were informed by Mr Mohapi that the reason he doesn’t want to close the school or alert parents is that he is afraid school fees will be withheld and staff won’t be paid.

“Our lives are in danger, my child – we are terrified to the point of shaking. But what is better; to lose our income or lose our lives?” asked an insider, who wanted to remain anonymous.

“Other schools here in the Vaal closed when they recorded positive Covid-19 cases, even if it was for 14 days, but Mr Mohapi refuses to close the school down.

“He only closed one classroom, the one the Grade 12 learner was in.

“The Grade 12 learner’s mother passed away and was buried on Monday. The learner has still not returned to school following his positive result and his mother’s burial,” another source said.

Speaking on the school’s behalf, GDE spokesperson Steve Mabona did not answer whether the department had been informed about Covid-19 positive tests at General Smuts High School.

Mabona said the GDE’s policy was not to speak about individual schools, but provided a weekly update on Thursdays at the provincial briefing.

He confirmed that suspension of lessons was based on a risk assessment conducted by both the GDE and Health Department officials to “ascertain whether the school is in compliance with Department of Basic Education and Department of Health (DoH) protocols for managing Covid-19 cases”.

“Sanitisation of the affected surfaces and areas is conducted and, in some instances, the school is closed for not more than two days for this process to be completed, depending on the size or number of the areas which the person has accessed.

“The affected school is then reopened depending on the number of close contacts identified to render the school operational,” Mabona said.

On allegations of “no work, no pay”, Mabona said: “That is not our directive; necessary human resources policies are applied and we are not aware of a no-pay principle.”

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