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DURBAN – SCHOOL governing bodies (SGBs) in KwaZulu-Natal were disappointed with the last-minute exclusion of their teachers from the vaccination roll-out.
When Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu launched a mass teacher vaccination drive at KwaMashu Sports Centre on Wednesday, SGB-employed teachers were not part of the programme.
The MEC announced that the department decided to start with the state-paid employees who were already registered on the system through their Persal numbers. Persal is an integrated human resources, personnel and salary system used by all the national and provincial government departments.
He said SGB-paid staff would be vaccinated at a later stage. The announcement had contradicted Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga’s statement that all teaching staff, including SGB paid staff, would be vaccinated when the teacher roll-out began.
KZN Parents Association chairperson Vee Gani said it was disappointing that the department decided to treat teachers differently.
“We are unhappy with this unequal treatment of teachers. For us, they are all teachers with the same status and qualifications. They do the same work and have the same challenges, so to treat them differently and exclude them from the same benefits is unfair treatment from our government,” said Gani.
Mfaniseni Ngcobo, National Association of School Governing Bodies chairperson, said as much as they understood the explanation that there were not enough vaccines, they could have been informed earlier. He said most of their teachers only learnt of this decision on Tuesday while he became aware of it when at a vaccination site on Wednesday.
“We are all children of the government and we deserve to be treated equally and fairly by all public institutions. It doesn’t matter who is paying who but teachers do the same work,” said Ngcobo.
Some SGB-paid teachers were still unaware of this decision.
The National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa provincial chief executive, Thirona Moodley, said it did not make sense to exclude staff employed by parents because they do the same work with the same challenges.
Provincial Health Department head Dr Sandile Tshabalala said KwaZulu-Natal initially targeted vaccinating 30 000 staff daily but had to trim this to just over 20 000 because of the number of vaccines the department received.
He said there was 127 000 staff in the education sector. “More vaccines will be supplied along the way and everyone in the education sector will be vaccinated within the 10 days. In eThekwini alone, all 31 700 staff will be vaccinated within three days.”
The SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) and the National Teachers’ Union (Natu) said although they were happy the day the teachers had been waiting for had finally arrived, they were upset that there were not enough sites in some districts.
Both Sadtu provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza and Natu eThekwini leader Phindile Mnabe said they noticed that in the Amajuba District, Newcastle had only two sites and teachers from Utrecht and Danhauser were forced to travel long distances.
Nokuthula Dube, a teacher from Amandlethu High School in Inanda, who had earlier contracted the coronavirus, on Wednesday said she was excited about getting vaccinated at last.
She had been infected along with half of the staff at her school. She was feeling nervous before being vaccinated but said she was happy and felt fine after receiving her jab.
Teachers who spoke to the Daily News before being vaccinated said they had forgotten about the negative messages and were looking forward to being vaccinated.
Education spokesperson Kwazi Mthethwa said 21 773 KZN teachers and support staff were vaccinated on Wednesday and they were pleased with how the roll-out began. He said some of the 70 vaccination centres would remain open throughout the weekend and teachers should check the Health Department website and Education district offices for more information.