Following the announcement that all students from Grades R to 7 will return to normal schooling schedules from the end of July, calls are mounting for government to now prioritise vaccinating teachers to ensure that no more time in classrooms is lost. 

The Democratic Alliance (DA) are leading these calls, saying on Tuesday 1 June that there have already been too many irreversible disruptions to the school curriculum, and insist that teachers must receive their jabs in the next two months. 

DA welcome return of junior school students  

Baxolile Nodada, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Basic Education, said in a statement that National Minster Angie Motshekga must lobby government to prioritise teachers for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and also questioned why the Department has decided to wait until 26 July for kids to go back to school.  

“We believe that it is entirely feasible for schools, particularly primary schools, to become fully functional from the beginning of July, a full month from now, given the crisis of children losing months of schooling they will in all likelihood never be able to regain. Why wait till the end of July?”

“Since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown in March last year, learners have lost months of schooling, with the impact being especially felt by children from rural and poorer communities,” said Nodada. 

He said that serious concerns regarding the completion of the curriculum are growing. “Given the time lost to Covid closures, the problem will be that much greater, and many schools have no hope at all of completing the curriculum,” he said. 

‘Teachers need vaccines NOW’ 

Nodada insisted that in order to make 100% sure that schools are ready to welcome back a full contingent of students as soon as possible, teachers need to jump the queue and get vaccines. 

“It is high time that our children’s education return to normal urgently, and this will be significantly accelerated by the rapid vaccination of our teachers. As experience has shown, the risk to primary school children returning to school is minimal, unless they have serious co-morbidities, in which case medical advice should be followed,” he said. 

He said that the Department also need to ensure that all COVID-19 safety protocols are strictly adhered to regarding water and sanitation at schools and hostels, where relevant, and that the crucial National School Nutrition Programme is implemented once more.

“This disruption of basic education’s consequences will have far-reaching consequences for millions of children, long after the pandemic has ended, and the Department must do everything necessary to ensure children are getting the full access they require to education,” he said. “The urgent vaccination of all teachers along other frontline workers should be a top priority for both the Departments of Basic Education and Health.”

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Presh JM Reporter

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