GREGORY Klink was more than just a teacher to his learners and fellow educators. He was also a father figure who was loved, adored and cherished by all.
Klink, a Grade 7 teacher at the Montevideo Primary School in Cape Town, died on Friday June 26 from COVID-19 related complications after testing positive three days earlier.
Shortly after his death, Montevideo Primary School shared a tribute to Klink on Facebook with several of his colleagues writing touching comments about him.
“Always smiling and laughing,” wrote one teacher.
“A great loss for Montevideo and a father figure to many,” wrote another.
Some teachers said Klink was ‘one of those people who everyone liked’.
He was “a much-loved and gifted member of staff”, another teacher said.
According to the school’s acting principal Craig Daniels, Klink went for his COVID-19 test on a Tuesday, received a positive result on Thursday, and on a Friday morning, sadly, passed away at his home surrounded by his wife, children and grandchildren.
“In the space of three days, Coronavirus became a reality at Montevideo Primary… Mr Klink went for his Covid-19 test on Tuesday, received a positive result on Thursday, and on Friday morning, sadly, passed away at home,” said Daniels.
“Our educators are heart-broken, as I am sure many of our children are – past and present. Mr Klink was the grandfather that your child needed, he was the father that was missing from home, he was the mentor to our educators and he was the source of our spiritual guidance and motivation.”
The other two teachers featured were educators at Boikanyo Primary School in the Gauteng Province.
They also succumbed to the deadly virus.
According to Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga, since the return of the Grade 7 and 12 learners on 08th June 2020, 2 740 teachers, of the total number of about 440 000 teachers, were infected by the virus.
In the same period, 1 260 learners were infected by the virus.
“We unfortunately lost the lives of eleven 11 teachers and 4 non-teaching staff in the Eastern Cape to the virus; as well as 3 learners, who are reported to have succumbed to COVID-19. The reports show that some of these teachers and learners could not have the opportunity of reporting back to school on school reopening,” said Motshekga in her tribute to the fallen teachers and learners.
“We convey our deepest condolences to the affected families. May their dear souls rest in eternal peace. Due to the infection rate, it is clear that we need to continue to work together to contain the transmission of the virus. As the basic education sector, we have to play our part together, with all our strategic stakeholders and partners.”
Teachers were not coping with the psychological stresses of working during the pandemic while their colleagues were dying, said founder of the Western Cape Teachers’ Forum Lee Hoffmann, who is a teacher and works for a teachers’ union.
“Our people are really not coping, because, on a weekly basis, we’re sharing news of one of our education sector workers that has passed on,” Hoffmann said.
“The sector is reeling at the loss of these educators.”
Hoffman created the Teachers’ Forum Facebook group in 2015 as a place for education workers to network. During the pandemic, it has become a place to share information, fears and to support one another, with a particular focus on the mental wellness of teachers.
“Psychosocial support is really important. You’ve got PPE in place and social distancing, but we’ve not addressed the issue of wellness enough, for both teachers and learners,” he said.
(Compiled by Inside Education staff)