Vaccination of all teachers, administrative and support staff at public schools will begin in Makhanda on Wednesday 23 June, the Department of Health has confirmed. They are among half a million education sector staff nationally to be vaccinated within the next two weeks. Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says while the Department is sensitive to concerns raised about rising infections, they believe schools should remain open.
All Department of Education staff on the PERSAL system, as well as school governing body appointed staff will be vaccinated with the J&J vaccine in a blitz that ends on 8 July. PERSAL is the combined human resource, personnel and salary system used by all South Africa’s national and provincial government departments. GMDirect understands that there are around 600 education staff in Makhanda registered on PERSAL. Independent schools registered in terms of the South African Schools Act are also included in this phase of the national vaccination campaign; however, at these schools it will be only teachers who are eligible.
Makhanda schools told GMDirect that Department of Health officials visited this week to confirm numbers.
Head of the Department of Health’s Makana Subdistrict Mohamed Docrat said education sector staff in Makhanda will receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at two temporary sites that they will be informed of. The Phase 2 vaccination of people 60 years and older with the Pfizer vaccine, however, continues as normal at Settlers Hospital.
Docrat confirmed that those to be vaccinated include those employed in the school nutrition programmes, as well as school transport providers.
The DoH’s Subdistrict includes Ndlambe. Temporary sites have similarly been identified in Port Alfred and Marselle for the vaccination of education staff there. Meanwhile, community vaccinations of Ndlambe citizens 60 years and older will be expanded to a site in Alexandria starting Monday 21 June.
The Department of Health’s Thursday 18 June 2021 scheduled opening of a temporary Covid-19 vaccination sit at Extension 9 Hall was halted because blocked roads prevented staff from reaching the venue. Around 100 mostly elderly people in the 60-plus category eligible for Phase 2 vaccinations, who had arrived early for their shots, had to be turned away because of protests.
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga says vaccinating everyone in the education sector is an opportunity to normalise schooling and begin the process of mitigating the impact of the pandemic. Motshekga was briefing media on Friday 19 June about the sector’s response to the impact of Covid-19 on schooling.
According to Motshekga 582 000 in the Department of Basic Education are to be vaccinated over 10 to 14 days. The education sector campaign ends on 8 July.
She confirmed that in addition to teachers, school transport providers, food handlers, staff who do remote learning programmes (TV and radio), staff of teacher unions, and other contracted staff (e.g. security, cleaning) are also eligible.
“In order for us to successfully complete this programme, we will need to keep schools open,” Motshekga said. “Any disruptions would be undesirable. The vaccination of everybody in the sector is an opportunity to normalise schooling and begin the process of mitigating the impact of Covid-19.”
Motshekga referred to the balance in managing the pandemic between saving lives and livelihoods.
“In the case of the Basic Education Sector, this means that we need to do all that we can to prevent a potential academic disaster. At all times, we follow the advice of public health experts… We believe that schools must remain open and in saying so we are not insensitive to the concerns raised about the rising infections,” Motshekga said.
She said Covid-19 cases at schools would be managed according to the differentiated strategy, on a province by province, school-by-school basis.
“While there are disruptions in the sector, the majority of our schools remain fairly stable,” Motshekga said. “Our social partners and key stakeholders expressed the same view in our engagement earlier today.”
Motshekga said the Council of Education Ministers had consulted with teacher unions, national associations responsible for governance in public schools, learners with special education needs, independent schools, and the South African Principals Association.
Motshekga said the Department would however take guidance from structures such as the Ministerial Advisory Committee, National Coronavirus Command Council and Cabinet as part of the national approach against Covid-19.
“There [have]to be scientific reasons for all decisions that are taken,” Motshekga said.
Motshekga said provinces are in various states of readiness for the return of primary school learners to school on a daily basis. The decision for primary school learners to return to school fulltime from the start of the third term on 26 July was gazetted at the end of May.
EDUCATION SECTOR VACCINATION FACTS
The vaccination programme will start on Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, and it will continue until Thursday, 8th July 2021, a day before schools close to mark the end of the second school term.
Those to be vaccinated are –
- All PERSAL Staff (as at April 2021) in DBE (educators, administrative and support staff) at all public schools; irrespective of their age;
- School Governing Body appointed teachers, and those teachers employed by independent schools registered in terms of the South African Schools Act;
- We have five hundred and eighty-two thousand (582 000) persons to be vaccinated over 10 to 14 days (weekdays and weekends); or 7 to 10 days (if it is weekdays only);
- A strict registration process will be followed, as follows –
- If you are PERSAL staff member, your details have already been captured onto the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS);
- Lists for SGB appointees and independent school educators will be uploaded onto the EVDS;
- On-site data capturing will be required for individual’s cell numbers; and medical aid details;
- There will be NO ON-SITE registrations – that means persons not bulk uploaded in the EVDS, cannot be registered on-site; and therefore, cannot be vaccinated. Should this happen to you, the on-site officials will help you on the steps to be followed for assistance;
- The Departments of Health and Basic Education at provincial and district levels, will work together to link schools to identified vaccination sites; and
- The verification of basic education staff – where the EVDS is offline due to power outages, will require a list or letters signed-off by the staff respective principals.
We need to note however that there are exclusion criteria; which means that there are some people, who may not qualify to be vaccinated. These individual may include, but not limited to –
- Any person who had contracted COVID-19 in the past 30 days;
- Any person who was vaccinated using another vaccine (Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson, under Sisonke); or
- Any person who had received a flu vaccine in the past 14 days.
In our deliberations with the Department of Health, it was further agreed that the vaccination programme must cover –
- Staff who transport children to and from schools;
- Staff who support the school feeding scheme – here we refer to the food handlers;
- Staff who do remote learning programmes (TV and Radio); and
- Staff of Teacher Unions, and indeed other contracted staff who provide security, do cleaning and other functions at school.
“Vaccination is voluntary but highly recommended so that everybody can be protected,” Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said in her media briefing on Friday 19 June 2021.