Teachers have worked through a tough academic year in 2020 and many lost their lives while doing so due to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the end of 2020 the Department of Basic Education's director general Mathanzima Mweli expressed concern on behalf of the department for the number of teachers who were dying over the festive season. He described this as very alarming.
In the middle of December 2020 South Africa entered into the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and teachers were dying at an alarming rate even after schools had closed on 15 December.
This is why the South African Teachers Union's (Sadtu) CEO Chris Klopper has said that the government should prioritise teachers in the vaccine rollout.
Klopper told eNCA that teachers had to teach without any personal protective gear and had to rely on wearing masks, washing their hands and following social distancing protocols. They were vulnerable to the many students who came from different households in various communities where there were Covid-19 outbreaks.
Klopper says that there seems to be no clear plan surrounding getting the vaccine and rolling it out to the public and frontline workers.
"Teachers are also frontline workers and they must be protected."
"Our call is to prioritise teachers as a priority group, get them vaccinated.... We can ensure that teachers are at school everyday and they are able to teach"- Sadtu CEO Chris Klopper
The Health Department aims to vaccinate approximately 40 million people by the end of 2021. The vaccine rollout strategy involves three stages in which healthcare workers will receive the vaccine first, then essential workers, the elderly and those living with comorbidities.
“We have been advised that we should expect the vaccines in the second quarter of 2021. We have been in constant contact with Covax who have advised us that they are working very hard to bring the batches releases forward to quarter one,” said the department in an official document.
The rollout is expected to begin in April.
The South African government is in discussion with many pharmaceutical companies, which include Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.
The deputy director general of health Dr Anban Pillay, who spoke at a briefing, said these discussions could result in a vaccine being delivered to the country in the first quarter of the year.