Teachers unions say there are some fears going into term two for teachers with comorbidities. COURTNEY AFRICA African News Agency (ANA)
Teachers unions say there are some fears going into term two for teachers with comorbidities. COURTNEY AFRICA African News Agency (ANA)

Educators raise fresh concerns as schools proceed with the second term

By Shanice Naidoo Time of article published May 8, 2021

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Cape Town - Schools have already kicked off term two but while the Department of Basic Education said everything is running smoothly, fears still linger for teachers with comorbidities.

“Teaching and learning is proceeding with no major challenges. In terms of health and safety protocols, everybody knows what must happen and it is the same old measures that include the wearing of masks correctly, sanitising of hands, washing hands and keep social distancing. These are the most effective hygiene practices that must be observed by everybody,” said Department of Basic Education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.

He added that teachers who have comorbidities know what they must do.

“They inform the school principal. He will give them a form to fill in. The same process which was followed last year in terms of sick leave policy will apply. All teachers know it because it’s part of the induction that they all go through when they are appointed,” said Mhlanga.

Executive director for the National Professional Teaching Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa), Basil Manuel, said: “Our people with comorbidities are constantly concerned, however. We also know that our schools, and particularly primary school infections, have been very low and teachers, like everybody else, have to be careful of how they deal with the people around them. That doesn't make it any easier in high schools, children themselves could be infectious or easily infected and we constantly caution our members on being cautious however that has an impact on their mental health.”

He added that there has been no indication from the national government that the alert levels are going to change which would result in them being allowed to work from home.

“Added to that is the worry of the third wave and the impact it will have and of course in addition to that there is also this debate about bringing all the primary school children back notwithstanding the infection levels are low. People worry because of the large number of learners there will be and the more people that you are in contact with. We are worried about overcrowding if all the kids go back. On a positive note, the delivery of PPE have improved greatly, they are more regular, the quantities are better,” said Manuel.

Spokesperson for the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), Nomusa Cembi, said they are worried about their teachers because of the threat of a third wave. “Ideally, we would like to see teachers vaccinated and the rollout to happen sooner. We have teachers with comorbidities, so we want the vaccinations to happen sooner so they all can be protected,” said Cembi.

Meanwhile, South African Teacher’s Union (SAOU) said they do believe that if the necessary safety measures are diligently adhered to, they will be able to weather the coming wave.

“Naturally though, where there are educators with serious comorbidities, the SAOU believes that, as in the past, they should be afforded the necessary protection through the regulatory framework that has been in place. We have seen through the past few months that the pandemic creates exceeding fluid situations which must not only be anticipated but also adapted to as and when they change.

“For now, our members and educators across South Africa are braving the second term in service of education, regardless of the uncertainties of the next few months,” said SAOU spokesperson, Stephan van den Berg.

Weekend Argus

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