Teaching screeches to a halt in some Gauteng schools due to Covid-19
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Johannesburg - Schooling in Gauteng since the beginning of the year has been dealt a heavy blow after the Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi revealed that some 20 schools have had to be closed amid the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the province.
Lesufi said the schools were closed interchangeably for between one and three days since February due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
He made the comments on Thursday while delivering his department’s Budget vote in the provincial legislature.
Lesufi said the decision to shut down schools came after consultations with the Department of Health, adding that more than 1 000 teachers and close to 2 000 learners have tested positive for the deadly virus.
Just this week at least 30 more learners and teachers at King Edward VII School in Houghton tested positive for the coronavirus.
It takes the total number of confirmed cases at the school to more than 60, after more than 30 boys had tested positive last week
On Tuesday, in an update to parents, a school letter showed that 11 more boys tested positive for Covid-19, while yesterday, another 19, among them three teachers, tested positive for the virus.
The department declined to comment yesterday, saying it would provide an update today.
In the school letter addressed to parents, the school shared with parents that 16 boys in Grades 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12, tested positive.
The boys were mixed between day learners and boarders.
Lesufi said: “We are in the middle of a third wave, that is causing unmeasurable panic and misery in our schools.
“To date we have closed 20 schools due to Covid-19 cases.
“This year alone, 1 077 educators tested positive while 1 977 learners also tested positive.
“We are monitoring the situation and we await guidance and advice from our health experts on what form of action we need to take."
Lesufi said the department would assist to minimise infections.
“We remain open-minded in taking whatever action that will assist us to minimise infections at our schools and want to assure all our educators, learners and parents that we are adhering to all relevant protocols.
“We are receiving notifications of positive cases almost daily in all our schools.”
The acting Minister of Health, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, reiterated the government’s concern about the spike in Covid-19 infections in Gauteng.
The province recorded 7 859 positive cases in the past 24 hours – the highest daily cases in the province since the pandemic was first detected in March last year.
With the Charlotte Maxeke Academic Hospital still closed, concern was mounting over the province’s capability to cope with the rampaging third wave of infections.
Recently, the department admitted that there was an increase in hospital admissions.
Kubayi-Ngubane is concerned that super-spreader events are still continuing in the province.
“We have entered the third wave technically as a country, and its what is worrying us now, and I must say when we look at last night’s report, Gauteng is our major concern – we can call it the fires are burning.
“What is worse concerning is what we have observed yesterday, mass gathering happened yesterday despite the fact that level 3 was called.
“What is concerning us is that you do not know where the people you are gathering with might have been,” she said.
Meanwhile, the national Department of Health yesterday announced that 300 000 doses of vaccines meant for teachers would arrive in the country today. “We will begin vaccinating teachers from sometime next week,” the department said.