Government urged to vaccinate teachers


Class room
Class room

As teachers prepare to resume full-time teaching from next month, the DA is calling for teachers to be prioritised under the country’s vaccination programme.

 

Last week, Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced that from 26 July, all pupils from Grades R – 7 will return to normal schooling.

Motshekga, gazetted regulations that primary school learners “must return to the daily attendance and traditional timetabling model from 26 July 2021, provided that the risk-adjusted differentiated strategy is implemented”.

The DA’s Shadow Minister on Education, Baxolile Nodada, said the urgent vaccination of all teachers along with other frontline workers should be a top priority for both the departments of Education and Health.

Third-wave fears

Echoing the DA’s call, IFP spokesperson on Education in KwaZulu-Natal, Thembeni Madlopha-Mthethwa, said the third wave of COVID-19 is here and could potentially be more deadly than the second wave.

“With new infections rising rapidly, the country needs to redouble the effort to vaccinate as many people as possible,” she said.

She said SA has lost many teachers to COVID-19.

“It is important that we encourage teachers, especially those living with comorbidities, to get vaccinated. We are mindful that the vaccination programme only prioritises people who are 60 years of age or above and those living with comorbidities,” she said.

Nodada said he did not understand why schools had to wait another month to resume normal classes.

“We believe that it is entirely feasible for schools, particularly primary schools, to become fully functional from the beginning of July, a full month from now, given the crisis of children losing months of schooling they will in all likelihood never be able to regain. Why wait till the end of July?” he said.

He said since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in March last year, learners have lost months of schooling, with the impact being especially felt by children from rural and poorer communities.

Already there are serious concerns regarding the completion of the curriculum, which is a problem in many schools, even without disruptions.

Given the time lost to COVID-19 closures, the problem will be that much greater, and many schools have no hope at all of completing the curriculum.

Parents raise concerns
Meanwhile, parents have raised concerns about learners being sent back to school at a time when SA is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Specialist and Head of the Discipline of Public Health Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Saloshni Naidoo, said children tend to get mild illness or have no symptoms at all, as opposed to having severe disease like we see in adults.

“About 80% of infections in children are mild. As of May 2021 the cumulative incidence of lab-confirmed COVID-19 in those less than 19 years was 5.5 times lower than those older than 19 years according to reports from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases,” she said.

She said parents can monitor their children for symptoms and test if they have symptoms.

“Parents can also ensure children practice infection prevention and control by making sure their children wear a mask, wash their hands and keep social distance,” she said.

Naidoo said children should be discouraged from hugging or wrestling and if a child is not well, they should remain at home.

She said if a child or caregiver has been in contact with a COVID-19 positive case then parents follow national guidelines and inform the school.

“At home, continue to maintain their own safety bubble as a family,” she said.

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