Teachers and unions pleased with rollout

Johannesburg – Mmatebogo Makhubedu, the principal of Diepkloof Secondary School, was disappointed that she couldn’t go with her staff this week to be vaccinated because she tested positive for Covid-19 and was self-isolating at home.

But she said feedback from the school was that it went very well.

“Staff go in groups of eight daily, from the support staff to the educators themselves. I only started my isolation on Tuesday, so I still have a long way to go before being vaccinated,” she said.

Sameerah Amod, a grade three teacher at an independent school in Roodepoort, said they had some delays at the Fleurhof vaccination site on Wednesday, the first day of the rollout, but were told that vaccinations would commence the next day.

Chris Klopper, the CEO of the South African Teachers Union, said it was understandable that there were some teething problems in efforts to vaccinate 582 000 people.

“The only real problem that was experienced was in Bloemfontein because all the educators arrived at the same time and insisted on being vaccinated immediately. The Free State department of education did not communicate and provide schedules per school and per time slot,” said Klopper.

He said they were concerned about Limpopo as more than 60 000 persons would have to be vaccinated over four days.

“Schools have not received detailed schedules for the vaccinations. Many school principals are still uncertain. We are concerned that it may lead to congestion and unnecessary tension.

“There is also a lot of fake news doing the rounds. The department and unions will have to address this,” said Klopper. Basil Manuel, the executive director of the National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa, said the union was satisfied with the rollout.

“I personally didn’t go; I will go next week with governing bodies and private schools. All the reports were that it was sleek. And there was huge praise of health workers from all the centres. A few hurdles were reported in Bloemfontein because there was an excess number of people arriving. Limpopo is a concern because they only set aside four days.

“In Phoenix, Durban, people waited a while at Moses Mabhida Stadium, but there are many vaccination points, so this can be expected. But generally everything is going better than anticipated. We hope everything will continue smoothly like this. And we are confident that 580 000 vaccines will be done well within the two weeks set aside.”

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), the biggest teachers’ union, said there were delays in some vaccination centres.

“Besides these glitches that necessitated the late start, Sadtu in KwaZulu-Natal congratulates the departments of education and health in the province for the hard work displayed to ensure that in many centres, the vaccination of teachers started at the scheduled time, ensuring that 21 773 teachers and education workers were vaccinated by the end of the day,” reads Sadtu’s statement.

Spokesperson for the Department of Basic Education Elijah Mhlanga reported that 105 000 people had been vaccinated in seven of South Africa’s provinces by Friday.

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