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Dept dismisses claims that pupils tested positive at camp

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The DA claims that seven pupils were infected at the matric camp.

File image. Picture: Flickr

THE NORTHERN Cape Department of Education has dismissed claims made by the DA that seven pupils from Richmond High School tested positive for Covid-19 after attending a camp in Victoria West.

The DA constituency head of Bo-Karoo, Fawzia Rhoda, said in a media statement issued on Wednesday that that the party was alarmed by allegations of non-compliance to disaster management protocols at Richmond High School.

Calling on the Provincial Command Council to intervene and to increase monitoring of schools, Rhoda said that pupils in Grade 12 had attended a camp held in Victoria West over the weekend.

“After the camp was over, learners were tested at a local clinic and seven learners from Richmond High School tested positive.

“It appears that the learners were more proactive in responding to the medical crisis than the school management team or the Northern Cape Department of Education,” Rhoda added.

“Some learners confirmed their test results on social media, allowing friends or family who were in contact with them to take the necessary precautions. But the school continues with classes, as scheduled, and neither the district nor the provincial offices of the Northern Cape Department of Education has stepped in.”

Rhoda stated further that it seemed that the pupils who reportedly tested positive were isolated in one room at the school hostel, as the hostel does not have separate facilities for quarantine or self-isolation.

“To minimise transmission risks in communal dining areas, hostel staff bring meals to learners. But the risk for transmission in the hostel remains high, as the seven learners continue to share ablution facilities with other learners in the hostel who have not tested positive.”

Rhoda went on further to state that it was “unacceptable for any school to deviate from the disaster management regulations in such a blatant way”.

“Learners should be supported to dream their educational dreams and teachers should be supported to deliver their academic functions. It cannot be allowed that lives are exposed to risks which can easily be avoided.”

Northern Cape Department of Education spokesperson Geoffrey van der Merwe said in response that the allegations that the department was not adhering to Covid-19 regulations and guidelines were “lies and misleading”.

“The department is preparing for the start of the incubation camps on Friday, August 14, 2020. We have identified approximately 3 000 Grade 12 learners who will attend these camps for a duration of three to four months. All educators and learners, prior to attending the camp, are subjected to screening and testing. Therefore the learners of Richmond High School were tested over the past weekend in Victoria West. They are currently awaiting their results and will be able attend the incubation camp at an identified venue as soon as they receive their results,” said Van der Merwe.

He added that it was very concerning that the DA would take such a “good initiative” in support of Grade 12 pupils and “totally blow it out of proportion”.

“The information stated in their statement is absolutely inaccurate and does not in any way correlate with the current realities on the ground, which is mischievous,” said Van der Merwe.

“We would further like to appeal to the Democratic Alliance to first verify their facts before publishing statements aimed at misleading the public.

“We operate within a very difficult period, where our country and especially our schools are confronted by Covid-19 which disrupted the school academic year. The unnecessary sensationalism of this nature by the DA does not assist the process at all, but is aimed at causing a panic.

“All our efforts are geared towards saving the school academic year and we need the support of everyone in this regard. We do hope this will set the record straight in this regard as we navigate through this difficult period,” concluded Van der Merwe.