By Jonk wa Mashamba
The Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) is extremely alarmed that 9 113 educators and support staff – some with comorbidities – are refusing to take the life-saving COVID-19 vaccination jabs.
MEC Panyaza Lesufi said they were very worried that nearly 10 000 of “our personnel in the Gauteng education sector are, for one reason or the other, refusing to be vaccinated against this deadly virus which has wreaked havoc in our schools and communities by taking away our loved ones”.
While vaccination is voluntary, the World Health Organization (WHO) has encouraged people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19 such as healthcare providers, educators, older or elderly adults, and people with other medical conditions, to take the life-saving jab to reduce the risk of developing the illness and its consequences.
“Getting vaccinated could also help protect people around you because if you are protected from getting infected from the disease; you are less likely to infect someone else,” said Lesufi.
Last week, (23 June 2021) the Department of Basic Education announced the start of the massive Education Sector Vaccination Rollout Programme which aimed to vaccinate those who work in this important sector.
So far, 53 154 educators and support staff, out of 124 934 personnel, have been vaccinated at 56 sector-dedicated sites across the province.
The number of vaccinated personnel is expected to increase next week as the delays in the capturing of educators and support staff from School Governing Bodies (SGBs) and independent schools has been resolved.
“It is common cause that learners are on recess and, as such, in the coming week, sites will be conducting mop-ups to ensure that all outstanding personnel is vaccinated accordingly.
“It needs to be noted that the reluctance to vaccinate is a threat to the government’s efforts to normalize schooling during this disruptive pandemic, and effectively threatens the academic year in its entirety.
“Educators were prioritized in this phase of the vaccine rollout and, as such, were expected to take advantage of this opportunity to avoid further disruptions and learning losses in the education sector because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This would ensure that contact learning continues and that no learner will be deprived of learning in a classroom with all the necessary curriculum resources needed. The refusal to vaccinate also impacts on the rollout reaching other affected sectors timeously in order for the country to develop ‘herd immunity,” said Lesufi.
Lesufi indicated that Key stakeholders in the education sector, such as unions and SGBs, have “thrown their support behind the programme as they are well-aware of the challenges that the virus is having on the provision of quality education to our children in Gauteng.
“We, again, urge those who are refusing to vaccinate to come forward and take this vaccination, which millions across the world are seeking”.