As Covid-19 rips through schools in Gauteng, frightened teachers are questioning the government’s decision to keep classrooms open.
A teacher at a school in Johannesburg said Covid was escalating in schools and that some staff and pupils had been attending school even though they had the virus.
“Our classrooms are becoming war zones, with all the attendant post-traumatic stress that entails,” said the teacher, who didn’t want to be identified.
“Our school has more than 100 children absent every day because of the virus, while a further 20 to 30 are sent home during the day because they feel ill.”
She said although teachers were promised to be next in line for vaccinations following healthcare workers, they were not sure with the present roll-out strategy.
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“Children from Grade R and up are testing positive, teachers are positive and highly stressed,” she said.
“Funerals and public events can only be up to 100, yet at a school over 800 are present daily.”
More than 1000 children in public schools had tested positive for Covid-19 in the past week. However, department of basic education (DBE) spokesperson Elijah Mahlangu said schools would remain open until the National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet advised differently.
“DBE does not make the decision in this regard but follows the leadership of the Cabinet, who are the forum that handle all matters Covid-19,” Mahlangu said.
With South Africa officially in the third wave following an alarming increase in the number of Covid-19 cases, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday announced the country had been moved to lockdown level 3.
More than 20 schools are understood to have closed in Gauteng since February. Gauteng department of education spokesperson Steve Mabona said this figure would be updated tomorrow.
According to the School Masterlist Data, in the fourth quarter of 2021, ending March, there were 2 943 operational public and private, pre-primary, primary and high schools in Gauteng.
There are also 6 025 operational schools in KwaZulu-Natal and 1 126 in the Free State. South African Democratic Teachers’ Union general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said they sympathised with the concerned teachers and welcomed the closure of some schools in Gauteng.
Maluleke said although the problem was not in schools but the communities around the schools, the union believed pupils were safer in schools than in their communities.
“Infections spread in the communities, we can urge the department to close schools, but community events always continue and, like the president said, those are the superspreaders,” he said.
Meanwhile, Western Cape education MEC Debbie Schafer urged parents to refrain from sending children to social gatherings unnecessarily as the province dealt with a third wave of Covid-19 infections.
There were 1 148 active cases among school staff members in the Western Cape and 314 active cases among pupils.
According to Schafer, they saw more evidence of community-level transmission and this, in turn, affected schools.
“While these cases are being reported by schools, the provincial department of health has indicated that they are linked to social events, rather than school attendance – this is the same pattern we saw last year with the second wave. Our safety measures have proved effective in preventing the virus from spreading at schools and we must continue to follow these.
“Nonetheless, each case reported by a school disrupts learning, no matter where it was acquired.”
She said areas might need to be cordoned off and sanitised and affected people should isolate.
“This costs valuable teaching and learning time – which we cannot afford to lose any more of. It also adds to anxiety levels.
“I appeal to [pupils] to always behave responsibly. It is all very well to follow the golden rules at school, but if they do not follow them when not at school, they put themselves, their families and their friends at risk,” she said.
“Please, consider the implications of allowing your child to attend unnecessary gatherings.”
email@example.com. Additional reporting News24Wire