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Monday, November 29, 2021

DBE minister addresses vaccine hesitancy

The minister of basic education, Angie Motshekga, said educators and other staff in her sector “really need to overcome hesitancy”.

Motshekga was briefing media at the Gallagher Estate vaccination site in Midrand on Thursday.

Motshekga said her department has received reports from its social partners who have indicated that some educators and support staff members are refusing to get the vaccine on the basis of their religious beliefs.

“At the start of the programme we saw many religious [leaders] come forward to receive the vaccine.

“Let me say this, there are myths about the vaccines that we also need to address in our communities.

“All vaccines used in South Africa have been tested and approved by SAHPRA [South African Health Products Regulatory Authority] – an entity of the National Department of Health created by government with the responsibility to regulate health products in the country.

“Getting the vaccine will protect you from severe illness, hospitalization and death from Covid-19,” said the minister.

Inside Education reported on Wednesday that the national department of basic education said 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.

READ: Teachers who refuse to be vaccinated are a threat – DBE

Basic Education Spokesperson Elijah 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.

This came after reports that 9113 educators and support staff in Gauteng province refused to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus.

Reports also stated that other educators from the Western Cape province also said they would not be participating in the vaccination drive due to vaccine safety concerns,  religion reasons and pregnancy as reasons.

Motshekga said as a department, they respect an individual’s right not to be vaccinated.

“… especially in those cases where people have indicated that they are not willing to get vaccinated. However, we would like to appeal to all our personnel to get the vaccine,” she said.

She added that the learning losses are getting worse daily and the impact on the system will indeed affect negatively in the future.

“We will need to work together to ensure that we get vaccinated and indeed continue to comply with the health and safety protocols relevant to Level 4 of the risk adjusted strategy,” she said.

When schools reopen, we will expect all our teachers, including those with comorbidities, to return to work.

READ: DBE to be taken to court for failing to provide meals to learners

According to the department of basic education, around 16,000 teachers have been on special leave because they have comorbidities.

Motshekga said the department has discussed this matter with the teacher unions, and all five of the unions that are part of the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) are in full support of this position.

“There will be no need for the DBE to develop any additional policies during this period, because it already has sufficient policies in place to address the current situation of the pandemic; and while the vaccination process is being implemented.

“The Department of Basic Education has requested that a Special ELRC meeting be convened on Friday, 09 July 2021, to discuss a proposal in the form of a draft collective agreement.

“This draft collective agreement aims to guide the operational requirements for educators employed in terms of the Employment of Educators Act, 1998 (Act No. 76 of 1998), following the implementation of the Basic Education Sector Covid-19 vaccination programme,” said Motshekga.

Motshekga said it is for that reason that her department makes the appeal to everybody in the education sector to ensure that they please get vaccinated, “so we can focus on the task of stabilising schooling.

“We really need to overcome hesitancy,” she said.

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