The eThembeni High School in Burgersdorp in the Eastern Cape closed this week after 102 learners tested positive for the coronavirus. Fifteen teachers tested positive and more than 500 learners are in isolation, the provincial education office said in a statement.

The school falls under the Joe Gqabi Local Municipality, and was affected by a wave of infections in Burgersdorp and nearby Middleburg. The students were preparing for their exams. Four pupils at the Emzimkhulu Primary School also tested positive for the virus.

“We decided to close the school and make it a centre for testing,” provincial education department spokesperson Malibongwe Mtima said. The school will be used to test for Covid-19. Officials will also track and trace the relatives and friends of students and teachers who test positive.

Exams will go ahead

Still, the Department of Basic Education says exams must continue. Learners who are medically fit will sit for their preliminary exams. A multi departmental team made of officials from the local municipality, and departments of health, public works and education will manage the response to the outbreak and ensure learners do not further spread the virus.

Exam invigilators must wear personal protective equipment. Examiners will monitor learners’ for a specified period before being marked to ensure they are not contaminated. The education department is also working on providing counselling services to affected learners. The department also provided support materials, laptops and data to learners in rural areas and those in isolation.

“We have made sure that these learners are in quarantine so they cannot infect other learners. Some are in isolation offered by the state,” said Mtima. Even before the national lockdown  moved to level one, schools in the region maintained social distancing and other regulations, he added.

According to the latest data from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the Eastern Cape has a total of 88,892 infections, with 84,574 recoveries and 3110 deaths. – Health-e News