SOME parents, teachers and unions are calling for schools in Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape to be closed through August due to a spike in COVID-19 infections.
The department of basic education said a total of 317 of positive cases were reported since the reopening of schools last month.
Over the weekend, the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) expressed its concerns about the increasing numbers of coronavirus cases in Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape schools.
The rising infections at schools are attributed to the department of basic education’s failure to meet health, safety, social distancing measures, personal protective equipment and sustainable provision of water and sanitation.
The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) said among others, overcrowding at schools was the major contributing factor in the rising numbers of COVID-19 school infections.
Last week in the Free State, Grey College Secondary was forced to close after more than 50 pupils, including teachers and among them the school principal and his deputy were confirmed positive.
In Kwazulu-Natal on Thursday alone, 285 cases were recorded amongst learners and educators forcing nine schools to suspend classes.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases of South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal recorded 1 979 new infections on August 10.
On August 11, the figure nearly doubled to 3 603 new cases reported.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) said: “It has been a concern that the minister has announced that learners should come back to school in numbers especially in primary school, where we have experienced a huge overcrowding where social distancing is mostly affected. We are going to have this infection rate.”
MEC of education in Gauteng, Panyaza Lesufi, said as of July 3 there were over 500 schools that had positive Covid-19 cases.
Gauteng health facilities are seemingly underprepared to deal with the spike of Covid-19 cases requiring hospitalisation.
Across the private and public sector, daily reports indicated that severe Covid-19 cases are being “nursed” in emergency departments at some hospitals until such time as bed space may be freed up in the wards.
The situation in Johannesburg is compounded by the closure of the 1,000-bed Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH), due to a fire that occurred on 17 April 2021.
In and around Durban, a number of schools have been closed for decontamination due to COVID cases since the beginning of the month.
In Ladysmith, a nine-year-old pupil died from COVID-19 on 1 August.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Education Kwazi Mshengu said in the last 24-hour reporting period, 285 new COVID-19 cases were recorded among pupils and teachers at schools in the province.
Nine schools were closed for decontamination.
Said KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala at the weekend: “We have been reliably advised by medical experts that we are now well and truly in the third wave of Covid-19. The province has for the past three consecutive days, recorded more than 3 000 new cases, and is reporting the second-highest number of daily confirmed cases.”
According to media reports, a Wembley Primary School pupil Katelyn Pillay died over the weekend due to COVID-19 complications.
The Grade 7 girl’s death comes just days after 9-year-old Shanika Balsaring succumbed to Covid.
She was a Grade 4 pupil at the Acaciavale Primary School in Ladysmith.
According to the Ladysmith Herald, Shanika and her whole family had been infected by Covid-19.
KwaZulu-Natal currently has a total of 430 789 confirmed cases, with 42 970 active cases and 12 622 deaths.
Naptosa’s Basil Manuel said: “We call on all our members to continue practicing all those nonpharmaceutical interventions and also call on the departments to ensure that the overcrowded school situation is being addressed and that the health system in our schools is being addressed.”
Sadtu’s General-Secretary Mugwena Maluleke said a few schools had to close as a result of pupil cases reported.
“Since the reopening of schools in KwaZulu-Natal we have seen a rise in KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape due to community transmission rising,” he said.
“We have observed that pupils are getting infected and in particular those schools that have begun sporting activities.”
Maluleke said the Eastern Cape and the Free State were being monitored due a spike in infections.
He said the infections were rising despite the social distancing being applied.
- * Inside Education