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Monday, December 6, 2021

Teacher union questions return to school amid strong third wave Covid-19 infections

Some teacher unions have said they are unhappy with the re-opening of schools on Monday stating that one in four people are still testing positive for Covid-19.

Educators Union of South Africa (EUSA) National Media Executive Andre de Bruyn said the union finds the opening of schools not only “irresponsible but it seems the department of basic education does not care for the lives of our children and those in our communities”.

De Bruyn added that other teacher unions supporting the reopening of schools are not interested in protecting their members, learners and teachers but would rather hold the interest of the employer.

“Four days before 26 July, South Africa was experiencing a large infection rate of about 16250 new infections and 500 plus deaths in 24 hours,” said de Bruyn.

The union called for a two-week postponement regarding the re-opening of schools “on condition that South Africa brings infections down to under 1000 in 24 hours,” added de Bruyn.

Adding that while government officials continue to work from home and the canvassing on political parties ahead of municipal elections have been postponed, schools are loaded with learners and are told to return to full capacity teaching by August 2.

READ: Schools to return to traditional and daily attendance on 2 August

“There is nothing safe about opening schools and the most vulnerable of the schools are the poorest of the poor. We say no to normal school (sic) in an abnormal society,” he said.

Just on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that schools will re-open on Monday. Ramaphosa said the opening of schools will adhere to health protocols and other measures announced by the Minister of Basic Education.

The president said the latest figures on Covid-19 infections suggest that the country has largely passed the peak of the third wave of infections.

“The measures that we put in place for the past 28 days, alongside the continued adherence of South Africans to basic health precautions, have been effective in reducing the rate of infection.

“The average number of daily new infections over the last week was around 12,000 new cases a day, which represents a 20 per cent drop from the previous week.

“In the last two weeks, the number of new infections in Gauteng – which has been the epicentre of the third wave – has steadily been declining,” said Ramaphosa.

He added that although the infection rate in Gauteng is beginning to fall, daily new infections in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal continue to rise.

There has also been a concerning rise of infections in the Northern Cape after a period of relative stability,” he said.

READ: Schools to open on Monday

In her media briefing on Saturday morning on the state of readiness schools ahead of the third term’s opening, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said more than 1 650 teachers died due to Covid-19 related complications between March 2020 and February this year.

However, Motshekga said this number can be considered a modest figure. Adding that the vaccination programme will help lesson the numbers of hospitalisation and deaths.

Adding that the lack of school attendance will be more devastating for learners who may never be able to catch up unless they return to full-time schooling.

“Every study that has been conducted, shows that a generational catastrophe is unfolding in front of our eyes daily. Something had to be done and still needs to be done to arrest the academic losses,” Motshekga said.

Motshekga said the sector had held countless consultative sessions to deliberate on the reopening of schools.

READ: It will be “devastating” if schools don’t open on 19 July – says Motshekga

She added that based on the information obtained from the provinces, schools are ready to continue to work within the established Covid-19 health protocols, also to start resuming full school attendance in primary schools from August 2.

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