Cape Town - They nurture and prepare children for schooling but they have been seemingly forgotten when vaccines for teachers were announced.
Early Childhood Development teachers feel they have once again been let down by the Department of Social Development (DSD) and the Department of Education (DBE) after they were left out of the vaccination drive for teachers.
Sandy Immelman from Masikhule, an organisation that trains ECD educators in marginalised communities of the Helderberg area, said that their teachers’ exclusion was not fair.
“It makes no sense, once again we have been let down. ECD teachers are teachers too, they take care of an enormous number of children,” she said, adding that many ECD centres closed down permanently due to the pandemic.
“The closure of the centres means that more children are on the streets and not attending school. If the teachers who are working now get sick, we will have a disaster on our hands,” Immelman said.
She said ECDs not only offer schooling for children, but also nutritional meals each day. The sector, which falls under DSD, never enjoyed the same treatment as schools under DBE. They had to take the government to court to force the reopening of ECD centres during the lockdown, she said.
“We would like that at least there can be a recognition of ECD centres,” said Immelman.
DBE Minister Angie Motshekga announced that they are targeting to vaccinate 582 000 teachers and school staff by July 8. A tight deadline that took many by surprise.
“We are the ones who put the time-lines to say we need two weeks, because we don't want to disrupt schooling, and when we close on the 8th, we want to be done, so that when we come back in the next term we're done with vaccinations,” Motshekga said.
Vaccination of teachers started smoothly across the country with few teachers declining the vaccine, for traditional and religious reasons.
ECD teacher Nomava Kalolo said they have long wanted to be moved from DSD to DBE.
“DSD is in a shambles, that department long failed us. Centres struggle with registration due to requirements that make it impossible to get registered. Right now they want the virus to kill us, yet we provide an important service to children,” Kalolo said.
Spokesperson for the provincial DSD Esther Lewis said they support the call for the inclusion of ECD staff in this phase of the vaccination drive.
“The matter is being discussed between the national departments of social development and health,” Lewis said.