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Over 22 500 Teachers Set To Return To Classroom Amid COVID-19 Safety Concerns

NYAKALLO TEFU

OVER 22 500 teachers are set to return to work amid COVID-19 safety concerns.

The Basic Education Department has instructed all teachers granted concessions to work from home during the nationwide lockdown to report back to school on Monday.

Teachers with co-morbidities were granted permission to work from home owing to the COVID-19 pandemic will this week return to school in accordance with the collective agreement 1 of 2020 aimed at providing concession for educators employed in terms of the Act No. 78 of 1998 of Employment of Educators Act (EEA), who were affected due to severe risk factors ofCOVID-19.

In July, the DBE called on all unemployed teachers to register on the National Recruitment Database (NRD) for temporary employment as substitute educators in a public school.

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country would move from level 2 to level 1 lockdown, meaning concessions work ended on Sunday at midnight.

“The affected people will therefore have to report for duty from Monday, 21 September 2020. If, however, some individuals are still not well, they are advised to follow the normal sick leave protocols,” said Minister Angie Motshekga.

Motshekga has vowed to ensure that the contractual agreement between the department and the substitute educators is fulfilled.

“Schools should also consider ways in which they could best utilise the substitute educators with who they have contractual obligation,” said Motshekga.

The department has urged school principals to re-work timetables to accommodate all teachers returning to work this week. 

“We are expecting that 22,500 teachers who have been working from home under levels 4,3, and 2 will now have to work from the school where they have been employed,” said the department’s spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.

“If they feel that they are not well, they are advised to apply for sick leave using the proper channels that they know.”

The SA Democratic Teachers Union said it cautiously welcomed the return of teachers to school.

“We are happy with the decision because we did sign a Collective Agreement for teachers with comorbidities to be given concession. We were fully aware that at Level 1 teachers would have to report for duty at school,” said SADTU spokesperson Nomusa Cembi.

“However, we are saying even though the collective agreement has come to an end, this is not the end of the employer’s obligation to the wellness of the employee. Those educators that are still not well can still take the normal route of taking sick leave.”

She added: “We are concerned that Basic Education Department has not handled the issue of teachers with comorbidities in some provinces. We have situations where some teachers who said they had comorbidities were asked to report for duty.”

(COMPILED BY INSIDE EDUCATION STAFF)

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