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Teacher union concerned that school principals are hiding Covid-19 cases over stigma fears

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Sadtu has received numerous reports that schools are still operating despite cases of Covid-19 being reported.

Teachers check the temperature of pupils at Sinethemba High School in Philippi. More pupils are set to return on July 6. Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Durban – SOME schools are reportedly being forced to remain open despite cases of Covid-19 being reported to the Department of Education.

SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) provincial secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said there were reports of schools hiding Covid-19 cases, some because of the fear of stigma.

They had received a number of reports of schools still operating despite cases of Covid-19 being reported.

“We have discovered that some principals are hiding Covid-19 cases for fear of stigma. Others remain open, despite cases of Covid-19 being reported to the department.”

She said they understood that once there was a confirmed case, the school should be closed and fumigated, and testing must be done with the close contacts of the positive person.

“The teachers are traumatised when one of them is diagnosed with the deadly virus. The psycho-social support that the schools were promised is not there. Parents are also affected when they are expected to continue to send their children to school when the school has not been cleaned and children and teachers have not been tested,” said Caluza.

However, the department said protocols regarding closing down of schools had changed.

Spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi said it was now not necessary to close down a school when a case of Covid-19 was reported, and it would not be necessary to test every teacher and pupil.

Delani Primary School, in Mariannhill, where a teacher tested positive last week, is still open.

The school has not been fumigated, or cleaned, and teachers and pupils have not been tested. Yesterday parents camped outside the school to demand answers. They said the school had not told them that a teacher had tested positive, and continued operating as if nothing had happened.

“We have been sending our children to school, not knowing that there is a Covid-19 case. The school should have been transparent so that we make an informed decision,” said a parent.

According to sources, the teacher had been at the school from June 8, and had been in contact with fellow teachers and pupils. “He did not show any signs of Covid-19. He had gone to the hospital for a leg-related medical condition, and the hospital insisted on testing him. Only he and two teachers who he takes in a lift club have been placed in quarantine; the rest were told to report for duty the next day.”

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