A week after resumption, South Africa puts 90 students in isolation as more pupils, teachers test positive for Covid-19
London, June 15, 2020 (AltAfrica)-The first week back to school in South Africa after more than two months has been marred by crisis as more pupils and teachers tested positive for Covid-19.
Secondary schools Apollo, Clairwood, Marklands, PR Pather, Savannah Park, Southlands and Oceanview Primary School in Chatsworth have been shut just one week after resumption
A teacher at Deccan Road Primary in Pietermaritzburg tested positive and more than 90 pupils and staff are in isolation after coming into contact.
The department of education’s circuit management office in Pietermaritzburg was also closed due to a principal having tested positive. The principal was believed to have interacted with at least 11 other principals when they met last week ahead of schools being reopened.
Officials from the health and education departments were sent to contain the outbreak at various schools.
Health department officials conducted screenings, decontaminated schools and began tracing to identify others who could be infected. Most people were asked to self-isolate and watch for symptoms.
The education department conducted risk assessments to determine when schools would be safe to reopen and what could be done to prevent further outbreaks.
Sadly, the husband of a teacher from Apollo has died after becoming infected. His widow was hospitalised with Covid-19 and on a ventilator while other family members have either tested positive or were awaiting their results.
Parents and community members said they were outraged as this was the nightmare scenario that they dreaded.
Brandon Pillay from the Chairpersons of School Governing Bodies (SGB) within the Bayhaven area in Chatsworth asked parents to keep children at home while consultations with the authorities, principals and teacher unions were ongoing.
“It is in the best interest of our children and communities that we heed this call and keep our children home. We have discussed with all SGBs in our area and agreed we use alternate methods of teaching through WhatsApp groups, online, radio stations, print media and worksheets and learning material from educators in a controlled manner.”
Skipping a grade better than us digging a grave
“The writing was on the wall and we were labelled as radical and selfish to say schools must remain closed. We still stand by this, we would rather the child skip a grade than us dig a grave.
“From what we have been led to believe 2400 learners have contracted the virus with 3 fatalities, 230 educators have contracted the virus with 10 fatalities all within five days of schools reopening, but the statistics may indeed be higher than what we have been led to believe,” he said.
Figures could not be independently verified at the time of going to print.
Thirona Moodley, KZN chief executive of National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa, said their members were petrified, and called on the education department to provide members with additional support.
“Principals need to be informed about procedures when there is a positive case.”
Michael Moyalo, Congress of SA Students national treasurer, threatened that all schools shut tomorrow.
“We have to be radical, teachers and learners are being treated like guinea pigs but these are people’s lives. Either we will be found guilty of breaking the lockdown or of saving lives.
Allen Thompson, president of the National Teachers’ Union, said there was a crisis in the education system. He said unions would consider not phasing in other grades because the department had shown it was not ready to welcome back other pupils.
“Hardly a week and the rate of the spread is completely unbelievable. Our principals are likely to be the transmitters of the virus. They operate in an unsafe environment,” said Thompson.