According to staff and students at St Johns College, Mthatha, Principal Zolisa Magaqa has ‘deceived’ affected parties about the current Covid-19 cases in the school, thereby endangering their lives.
Eastern Cape’s education department spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani, speaking to DispatchLive, noted that 40 pupils were tested for Covid-19, and were awaiting results.
According to staff, 37 Covid-19 cases that have been reported in the school (including two teachers) but the principal is accused of not taking the confirmed Covid-19 cases seriously.
High enrolment, high infections
When asked about the situation at St Johns College, Pulumani says the school has recorded 13 new coronavirus cases.
“The school has 13 new cases of learner infections [reported] by the school yesterday. Those learners are in an isolated room waiting for Department of Health to take them to isolation. Classes are suspended and there are other learners  with flu–like symptoms,” he told Health-e News.
“The school is arranging with health department to do testing and also re–arranging space for quarantine. There is a special team formulated by the health department to attend to all Covid-19 case management for St Johns, because they have high enrolment and high infections. I will inform of new developments. They are the ones leading the process.”
Meanwhile, when Health–e News visited the school and spoke with teaching staff, they accused Magaqa of not closing the school down, and students said they were still at the school’s hostel.
Covid-19 cases in ‘hiding’
Teachers believe the situation at the school is hopeless right now, with some students being kept in hostels despite experiencing Ccovid-19 symptoms.
Students accuse the principal of threatening them with expulsion if they tell anyone, such as their parents, about the situation inside the school.
Positive students are said to be quarantined or isolated in the school’s storage room in the hostel. A teacher, who remained anonymous for fear of repercussion from the school, told Health-e News that there are more positive cases than the school is letting on.
“We have student cases of Covid-19 that I believe the principal is hiding. There were 58 students who were tested and some of them got their results. Yesterday, one of the students received their results while they were in class and told the teachers,” he said.
He said the student was told to self-isolate in a location not suited for isolation as other students stay there.
“Then this student was told to go and self-isolate at the hostel where other students stay. The students share everything with each other but it is said that he is in isolation,” he said.
The teacher said that staff and students have demanded the school to shutdown fully. According to the teacher, Magaqa instructed students and staff to go into quarantine for 14 days – of which now they are on Day 9.
He also claims that students have been instructed to tutor each other instead of going home, which still risks the lives of learners as they could spread the virus among themselves.
“We are on our second week without any lessons because we are demanding Mr Magaqa to close the school so we can go in quarantine and also the school to be fumigated. We are also scared for our families, we are really putting them in danger now,” the teacher said.
Student’s mental and physical health has taken a knock since the increase in confirmed Covid-19 cases, and allegations of coverups of further cases in the school.
“We were never formally told from the beginning about the first case. We are really scared. My mental health is not good, to the extent where I can’t study,” the student said.
“It’s been two weeks without any lessons as the teachers say they are scared for their lives. But another thing is when you feel sick and have Covid-19 symptoms you are scared to say because we discriminate against each other. Once other students know your status; they start ill-treating you – we are really not happy.” – Health-e News