All teachers, including those with comorbidities, are expected to return to work when schools reopen, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said on Wednesday.
“We have 16 000 teachers who have been on special leave due to the fact that they have comorbidities,” she said.
As of Wednesday, 7 July, 400 000 people in the basic education sector had been vaccinated.
Motshekga said that 582 000 people in the sector initially qualified for the vaccine, but this has been extended to 789 554 people to include food handlers, janitors, support staff from independent schools, and early childhood development (ECD) centres located in school premises.
The minister said that for the past two days the department has been finalising the data and confirming with provinces that all additional people can now be vaccinated.
“As a result of this we are going to ask the department of health to give us an extension in order to mop-up the outstanding vaccinations. We want to use the time to conclude the programme properly in the sector,” she said.
Meanwhile, early childhood development practitioners who are not on school premises and fall under the jurisdiction of the department of social development are fighting to be vaccinated.
Colleen Daniels-Horswell, a principal at an ECD centre, said she finds it ironic that the early childhood development sector is the only sector currently open so that parents can still work, while the basic education sector, which is being vaccinated, has been closed. “Basically, we’re keeping the economy open and should be classified as essential workers,” she said.
Patsy Pillay, the director of New Beginnings, an ECD training centre, said that when the vaccination was extended to teachers they assumed it would also cover the early childhood development workforce.
“Through advocacy from many quarters, we understand that the department of social development has requested that the department of health also vaccinate early childhood development workers,” she said.
This past Friday, the minister of social development, Lindiwe Zulu, confirmed that negotiations with the department of health were underway.