Two of South Africa’s largest educator unions will hold meetings to discuss the possibility of mandatory vaccination policies for teachers in the coming weeks.
Representatives from the National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (Naptosa) told News24 that the union was in the process of surveying membership about their position on the idea of mandatory vaccinations. The results of this survey will be made clear by early next week, it said.
Naptosa spokesperson Basil Manuel said that the union was in support of teachers getting vaccinated and that the union’s membership did not have a strong anti-vaccination push back.
“The emphatic decision will be coming in this coming week, having surveyed our members which will be the guide to the national executive to finalise its decision. As it stands at the moment, it certainly is leaning towards full support for mandatory vaccination,” he said.
South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said the union’s national executive committee was still set to meet and deliberate on the matter of mandatory vaccinations. However, he said the union was encouraging everyone to vaccinate to protect children and restore the economy.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), South Africa’s largest trade federation, has thrown its support mandatory vaccinations which it says are necessary to avoid damaging lockdown restrictions.
“Vaccines are central to ensuring the right to life is protected and persons who have not vaccinated pose a serious risk to others, including those who have vaccinated,” the trade federation said.
“Individual choice and minority rights cannot be at the expense of majority rights, let alone the right to life. The Occupational Health and Safety Act places a legal obligation upon all employers to ensure that their workers and their customers are safe. They can be held legally liable for failing to do so.”
Some of South Africa’s largest private school groups have already made a move to introduce a mandatory vaccination policy, with Curro Holdings giving teachers until the end of the year to be vaccinated.
Other independent schools are opting to introduce vaccine mandates on a case-by-case basis, with many still relying on a hybrid-online model to conduct teaching.
The country’s higher education institutions have been more emphatic on vaccines, with top universities including the University of Cape Town and Wits introducing mandatory vaccination policies for both staff and students in 2022.
While the government has not mandated that teachers be vaccinated, schools were amongst the first to offer vaccinations as teachers are considered essential workers. Children over 12 have been encouraged to get the vaccine, although health authorities have not authorised vaccinations for younger age groups.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to give further clarity on South Africa’s planned vaccine mandates this weekend.