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NW teachers welcome break as COVID-19 cases soar at schools

Confusion about school nutrition programmes and restarting education
Written by Nthusang Lefafa

The closing of schools couldn’t have come soon enough in the North West province with more than 2600 teachers testing positive for the virus.

This, after President Cyril Ramaphosa moved the country to an adjusted level 4 lockdown on Sunday night, ordering all schools to shut down on Wednesday – a move which has brought widespread relief among educators in the North West.

South Africa’s cases continue to soar during the third wave with 12 222 more cases reported on Monday evening. Another 138 people lost their lives and the country’s positivity rate stands at an alarming 28.3%. Our recovery rate has also dropped to 88.7%.

According to the provincial education department, most public schools accommodate between 30 and 35 learners per class during lockdown. To make matters worse, it’s hardly ideal to open windows during the cold winter months which only creates a favourable environment for the virus to spread even further.

Mookho Goronyane, a teacher from Gopane Primary in Verdwal Village near Itsoseng, said she is happy after having her vaccination and that schools are closing for safety reasons.

“Many of our colleagues have tested positive for COVID-19 and we often wonder who is next,” said Goronyane.

“We are scared when we report for duty each day because we don’t know if one of the learners or staff members are bringing the virus from their homes. Closing schools during this period is the best decision for all of us,” she added.

Rural learners falling behind

Tshegofatso Malane, a primary school teacher from Mahikeng, says the pandemic has affected the cognitive ability of learners.

“The lack of regular class attendance is causing the learners to fall behind since their homes aren’t conducive to home schooling,” said Malane.

“Some of the learners didn’t do their assignments and some even dropped out during the first wave,” he added.

The school calendar has once again been reshuffled as authorities try to squeeze in as much time as they can. Teachers and learners will return to the classroom a week earlier – on Monday, 26 July, as opposed to the initial return date of 19 July. These arrangements come in the wake of the president’s ‘family meeting’ a few days ago.

Basic Education Minister, Angie Motshekga, said the school vaccination programme will continue with over 200 000 teachers and support staff having already received their jabs. According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), a total of 2 205 228 South Africans have been vaccinated.

Business as usual for school vaccination rollout

“Schools designated as vaccination sites must remain open to continue with the inoculation programme. It is important that we all work together to complete this process as soon as possible,” said Motshekga.

Health MEC, Madoda Sambatha, said the increase in COVID-19 cases was worrying and that the only way to stem the tide is to take schools out of the equation.

“What we have noted is that most of the positive cases are coming from schools where teachers and learners are testing positive,” said Sambatha.

Official numbers weren’t available from the health department.

Provincial spokesperson for the department of education (DBE), Elias Malindi, told Health-e News that the growing numbers are a matter of concern and that they are doing everything they can to follow COVID-19 regulations.

“We are in talks with the health department to see how we can deal with the matter. The department is also looking the possibility of increasing the number of screeners at our schools,” said Malindi.

Preparations are also underway with primary school learners returning to class on a full-time basis when schools open next month.

“We gave ourselves two months to prepare for this mammoth task when primary schools will once again follow traditional time-tables at the start of the third term,” said Motshekga.

“At the moment, provinces are at various stages of readiness. The DBE says it is currently holding one-on-one sessions with each provincial education department to check on their levels of readiness,” she added. – Health-e News

Watch this video of the teacher vaccination role out:

About the author

Nthusang Lefafa