The Covid-19 vaccination of teachers and support staff will start this Wednesday until a day before the schools close to mark the end of the second term on 8 July 2021.
Basic Education (DBE) Minister Angie Motshekga made the announcement during a recent media briefing on the basic education sector's response to the impact of COVID-19 on schooling.
"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 (SGB) appointed teachers, and those teachers employed by independent schools registered in terms of the South African Schools Act," Motshekga said.
Motshekga said 582 000 people are to be vaccinated over 10 to 14 days, including weekdays and weekends; or 7 to 10 days, if it is weekdays only.
"A strict registration process will be followed, 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, meaning that people 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," Motshekga explained.
She added that the Departments of Health and Basic Education at provincial and district levels, will also 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.
The Minister however, noted that there are some people, who may not qualify to be vaccinated, and these 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.
She said during the 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; staff who do remote learning programmes (TV and Radio); and staff of teacher unions, and 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. Let us work together on this fight against COVID-19 in our spaces. Everybody is expected to make their own transport arrangements. Where there are challenges, schools will need to assist."
The Minister made a clarion call to school communities to "Drop all, and vaccinate!"
Management of COVID-19 cases in schools
Motshekga also urged all schools to apply the Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) when managing COVID-19 related cases, and that every school must have a COVID-19 committee, a COVID-19 file, and compliance officers.
She reiterated that doing business under COVID-19, means that one needs to also strike a balance between saving lives and livelihoods.
In the case of the Basic Education Sector, she said the department needs to do all it can to prevent a potential academic disaster.
"At all times, we follow the advice of public health experts, who are supporting us in the management of the impact of COVID-19. We believe that schools must remain open and in saying so we are not insensitive to the concerns raised about the rising infections.
"The position is that we continue to handle COVID-19 cases 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. Our social partners and key stakeholders expressed the same view in our engagement earlier today," the Minister said.
She said the department will however, take guidance from structures, including Ministerial Advisory Committee, and Cabinet on this matter, as part of a wider approach in the fight against COVID-19.
There has to be scientific reasons for all decisions that are taken, she said.