The roll out of vaccination to all staff in the post school system will start in the coming few weeks. This is according to Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande who on Monday said he has instructed Higher Health, a health agency of the department of higher education and training, to come up with a Post School Education and Training (PSET) vaccination strategy that is aligned with – and supporting of – the Department of Health’s phased national vaccine roll out strategy.
The minister’s announcement comes as the Department of Basic Education (DBE) rounds off its last week of educators’ vaccination programme across the country.
About 582 000 staff in the basic education sector are being vaccinated. The DBE vaccination programme started Wednesday 23 June and will end this week on 8 July.
This number includes all teachers in public and private schools, all administrative and support staff in public schools but none in the higher education sector.
Nzimande said the Higher Health vaccination strategy for the higher education sector will help to ensure access to vaccination for all staff, including academia, management but importantly the frontline staff, at higher education residences, as well as cleaning, security and other support staff.
Nzimande said: “This matter has been tabled at the IMC [Inter-Ministerial Committee on Higher Education and Training] and I am confident that very soon we will start the roll out of vaccination to all our staff in the post school system.
“I’ll announce as soon as the Department of Health is able to provide the vaccine allocations framework for our sector,” said Nzimande.
Just this weekend unions called for all staff in the education sector be vaccinated.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) said it will engage government and Nzimande to address the vaccination of the entire education sector.
Sadtu General Secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the union wants vaccination to be spread to as many people as possible including educators in the Early Childhood Development, Community Education & Training (CET) and Technical & Vocational Education and Training (TVET) sectors.
“While the NEC appreciates the progress the department of basic education vaccination programme has had, it cannot fully rejoice the vaccination programme when thousands of educators are not part of the programme,” said Maluleke.
Maluleke said the union will continue to fight vaccine nationalism. He criticised the bureaucracy surrounding the distribution of vaccines across the country, saying that the bureaucracy is the reason for the slow vaccination process.
“No one is safe until everyone is vaccinated,” said Maluleke.
Nzimande said Higher Health has trained and developed over 49 000 campus-based frontline institutional staff and student volunteers.
Among them are residence officers (on-campus, off-campus and private accommodation), management, student support services, campus security and cleaning staff, said the minister.
He said Higher Health is currently working in seven key areas to promote the health and wellbeing of students across South Africa’s public universities and TVETs.
“For easy access of vaccinations to our staff and later, students, work has already begun to develop vaccination centres within our Universities and TVET Colleges.
“We established isolation & quarantine resources within the residences to prevent further outbreaks in common areas, such as dining halls, kitchen & study halls. Going forward, we will accelerate daily Covid-19 screenings at residences to identify possible outbreaks,” said Nzimande.
The minister said it is very crucial for young people to take these extra measures very seriously if we are to prevent community transmission. He said during all the waves including the current third wave, the higher education sector experienced several cluster outbreaks, across many of our institutional residences.
“This warranted Higher Health to develop a specific protocol on residences to deal with Covid-19 positive cases.
“Keeping in mind the new variants that are highly transmissible even when someone is asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic and especially in the third wave, daily Covid-19 screening is critical towards saving human lives.
“It is now evident that the new Delta variant, is highly transmissible and increasingly infecting larger numbers of younger persons in the population – unlike the previous (Alpha) variant,” said the minister.