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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Union calls for schools in South Africa to close as Covid-19 third wave hits

The Educators’ Union of South Africa (EUSA) has called for the immediate shutdown of all South African schools.

The union said this is because some provinces are experiencing the beginnings of the third wave coronavirus outbreak.

According to EUSA the lack of PPEs at public schools are the cause of the increased cases of infected learners and teachers.

Scelo Bhengu, EUSA President, said with Gauteng, Free State and the Eastern Cape having declared that they have reached a third wave, it is inevitable the whole country will be in third wave soon.

Bhengu said Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, the North West and the Western Cape have been reported to also be experiencing sustained increases over the last few weeks.

“Schools are central to the contribution of the resurgence as safety protocols are being ignored mostly by principals,” said Bhengu.

He added that it is a known fact that almost all public schools do not have PPEs while cases of infected learners are growing tremendously.

Bhengu said public schools last received their set of PPEs, only one mask per teacher, in June 2020.

Andre De Bruyn, EUSA Spokesperson said more than 70% of schools in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo still do not have running water, “which puts the lives of our teachers and learners at risk as they cannot wash their hands after using pit toilets”.

De Bruyn said the union has received worrying reports of principals who hide new reported cases from their colleagues and the learner community.

“This means that contacts are not traced and advised to quarantine or get tested,” said De Bruyn.

The push to close schools comes after the department of basic education announced this week that it would be postponing all contact sports over fears of a resurgence in cases.

Department of Basic Education Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga said it became evident that despite following protocols as guided by the directions on extramural activities and the Standard Operating Procedure on the prevention, containment and management of Covid-19 in schools, contact sport still contribute to the spread of the virus.

“In this regard, all sporting activities have been suspended with immediate effect until the clusters outbreak is subsequently over with no further cases reported including the preparatory school sport,” said Mhlanga.

But De Bruyn said the issues go far beyond contact that happens during contact sport.

He said while EUSA welcomes DBE’s decision to suspend contact sport in schools, many learners keep in close contact in the mornings when learners go to school, after school when they go home and “even more critically in the classrooms and during lunch breaks”.

He said in some school learners are only screened when they get inside the classroom.

He added that schools have teacher and general assistants at the schools “but these people are largely used to wash cars belonging to principals”

“We have long warned the department to stop its obsession of going back to what it calls pre-covid levels and instead focus on building a new system that will be in line with the fourth industrial revolution and the new normal.

“But as it stands, the last time nurses went to public schools was once in 2020,” said De Bruyn.

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