All teachers must report to work on July 19 already vaccinated against Covid-19 and those who have chosen not to be vaccinated will be required to provide an explanation of the steps they will take to protect themselves, as well as learners and other colleagues teachers in the workplace.
This is according to Department of Basic Education Spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga.
Mhlanga said the department was still discussing the next steps regarding educators who have refused vaccination, as working from home and listing medical conditions is not an option.
“Teachers will have to report to work. They would have had the opportunity to protect themselves against the virus,” he said.
The Department for Basic Education’s vaccination rollout plan has been in full swing, with more than 333 000 teachers and support staff vaccinated since June 23. The rollout plan is expected to continue until July 8.
On Sunday, Inside Education reported that 9113 educators and support staff in Gauteng province refused to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus.
Other educators from the Western Cape province also said they would not be participating in the vaccination drive due to vaccine safety concerns.
Others listed religion and pregnancy as reasons.
Several Rastafarian teachers also indicated that due to religious beliefs they would not be taking the vaccine.
According to Human Rights Lawyers, the rights that Covid vaccination objectors assert are the rights to freedom of religion, belief, culture and conscience.
“Vaccination objectors also assert the right to bodily integrity, including the right not to be experimented on,” said Tanya Calitz, Tanya Calitz is a lawyer at an international law firm in South Africa and human rights activist.
Calitz said the question that arises is whether receiving the vaccine can be legally mandated.
“At this stage, it is uncertain whether government can and will enact legislation or other governmental measures in order to compel Covid-19 vaccinations.
“But when and as the roll-out plan progresses, it is important to assess this question in light of constitutional rights and ethos enshrined in the Constitution of South Africa,” said Calitz.
Adding that without adequate legislation which mandates compulsory immunisation of the South African population against Covid-19, the country could be placed at serious risk of further transmission, and the number of deaths could spike again
“Compulsory immunisation must be considered alongside employment legislation and regulations such as the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995; the Occupational Health and Safety Act 95 of 1993; the Employment Equity Act 55 of 1998; and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 where employers may introduce mandatory vaccine policies in the workplace, which some employees may reject.
“In some circumstances, the rejection of mandatory vaccinations in the workplace can constitute constructive dismissal,” said Calitz.
South Africa is right in the middle of the Covid-19 third wave and is expected to hit its peak with the new Delta variant.
Both the Education Department of Gauteng and the DBE have expressed concerns regarding educators who have opted not to vaccinate as all teachers are expected to report for duty on July 19.
MEC for Gauteng Education Panyaza Lesufi said: “It needs to be noted that the reluctance to vaccinate is a threat to the government’s efforts to normalise schooling during this disruptive pandemic.
“This effectively threatens the academic year in its entirety,” said Lesufi.
Mhlanga said the Basic Education sector is aware of hesitancy surrounding the Covid-19 vaccines.
“The sector is working closely with teacher unions, SGBs and other stakeholders to address it.
“Fake news and conspiracy theories are part of all vaccination programmes – always listen to the experts and the scientists. We are engaging experts and leaders of the faith-based groups to address vaccine hesitancy in the sector,” said Mhlanga.
Naptosa’s Basil Manuel said his union will certainly not support any action taken against people unless it is proven that they will make the workplace unsafe.
But Zackie Achmat, activist and co-founder of the Treatment Action Campaign, said vaccines that prevent or mitigate Covid-19 infection are now increasingly available.
Achmat said mass vaccination will save millions of lives, prevent serious illness, and allow hundreds of millions across the globe to avoid any infection at all.
“Some Western Cape teachers have reportedly refused to be vaccinated. Should we stand back respectfully, and defer to their beliefs, while allowing them to continue to teach?
“No,” said Achmat, “If they are not vaccinated, teachers should not be allowed to teach. They may refuse to be vaccinated – of course – but the state should not be required to pay them,” he said.