Recently Health Minister Dr Zwelini Mkhize told South Africans that he is hopeful that the country will see the first vaccines arriving in February because of discussions that he and his department have been having with pharmaceutical companies.
Mkhize announced that frontline health workers would be receiving the vaccines first as the first rollout will be allocated to 1,5 million healthcare workers.
The National Professional Teachers' Association of South Africa (NAPTOSA) says that teachers must be prioritised in the rollout of the coronavirus vaccines. NAPTOSA Executive Director, Basil Manuel spoke to SABC News saying the union is happy that healthcare workers are being considered first for the vaccines but they would like to see teachers being included in the group who receives the vaccines first.
He says that teachers are having to work with lots of learners especially young adults in high schools, who are said to be very infectious, and are they therefore put in an high risk environment. Manuel says that schools cannot afford to be closed again as a lot of academic time was lost in 2020.
"We must ensure that the health and safety of all teachers, all education workers and the learners are being looked after," said Manuel.
In response to the death of a matric exam marker in KwaZulu-Natal, Manuel says that the death of the marker is tragic but that the responsibility not only lies with the department to keep the centres safe but that the markers themselves should also be looking after their own health and safety to protect those around them.
The matric marker was rushed to hospital from a marking centre and died in the hospital. Nine other markers who were in close contact with the marker are currently being isolated.
The Department of Basic Education spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga conveyed condolences to the family of the deceased.
"Indications are that some markers go to centres knowing they are positive and we urge them not to do so as it is dangerous to the health of their colleagues and themselves,” said Mhlanga.
The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), General Secretary Mugwena Maluleke told SABC News that teachers must be prioritised when the vaccines arrive in the country as the second wave of the coronavirus and the new strain has seen many of them pass away due to Covid-19.
Maluleke and Manuel says that schools will be checked before they reopen to make sure that they are ready to receive teachers and learners and that they have the relevant safety protocols in place as well as personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of everyone returning to schools.