Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga announced on Saturday (19 June), that schools in South Africa will remain open, despite a surge in Covid-19 cases in the country.
In a media briefing providing an update on the impact of Covid-19 on schools in the country, Motshekga, said: “We believe that schools must remain open and in saying so we are not insensitive to the concerns raised about the rising infections.”
The minister said that the department has taken advice from the medical fraternity, in making its decision.
She said that while there have been disruptions in the sector, the majority of schools remain stable.
Approximately 100 schools have been disrupted due to the ongoing outbreak, out of a sector that contains more than 25,517 schools.
More than 25,400 schools remain stable, the minister stressed.
“At all times, we follow the advice of public health experts, who are supporting us in the management of the impact of Covid-19.”
Motshekga said that 582,000 teachers and teaching staff will be vaccinated over a two-week period.
The rollout will formally start on Wednesday, 23 June, concluding 8 July, the day prior to school closures.
“For the next two weeks, we make the clarion call to our school communities to drop all and vaccinate.
“In order for us to successfully complete this program, we will need to keep schools open. Any disruptions would be undesirable,” Motshekga said.
She said that the education sector has suffered severely in terms of learning and teaching, because of the virus outbreak.
In terms of the target population, the department said that all adults will be vaccinated in both public and private education sectors.
This will include teachers, admin staff, volunteer food handlers, and cleaners. All officials in the sector will also be vaccinated.
No age restrictions are in place for the vaccination program, the department said.
Primary school children are set to return to school on 28 July, which is the first day of the third school term.
The department confirmed that the country received the 300,000 Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines earmarked for teachers on Thursday.
Deputy director-general (DDG) in the health department, Dr Nicholas Crisp, who is managing the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, said earlier this week: “Most of them have already been vaccinated because some of them are over 60, while others work as psychologists or registered as healthcare workers.”
While the 300,000 vaccines will not be enough to cover all the teachers, Crisp said the next consignment is due to arrive next week from a similar source in the US.
The Basic Education Department said it is arranging for schools to get designated vaccination sites.
Vaccination is voluntary, it said. No one will be forced to do it.
However, teachers with comorbidities are requested to vaccinate.
“Vaccination is voluntary but highly recommended so that everybody can be protected.
Let us work together on this fight against Covid-19 in our spaces,” said the minister.
A total of 51,301 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours, with 10,510 new cases, which represents a 20.5% positivity rate.
A further 118 Covid-19 related deaths have been reported, taking total fatalities in the country to 58,441.
#COVID19 UPDATE: A total of 51,301 tests were conducted in the last 24 hrs, with 10,510 new cases, which represents a 20.5% positivity rate. A further 118 #COVID19 related deaths have been reported, bringing total fatalities to 58,441. Read more: https://t.co/UcyTcfpWO5 pic.twitter.com/RZ9oMX0ISy
— NICD (@nicd_sa) June 18, 2021