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Minister Motshekga briefs Basic Education Sector on vaccination programme

Basic Education Minister, Mrs Angie Motshekga, visited the Gallagher Estate Vaccination Site in Midrand on 7 July 2021, as part of the monitoring of the vaccination drive in the Basic Education Sector. The roll-out of the vaccination programme commenced on 23 June 2021, with an initial allocation of 300,000 doses to be administered to teachers and staff over a period of 10-days at the various sites across the country. During the past two weeks, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) has visited various provinces, monitoring the progress of the vaccination programme.  

“The latest figures collected, together with the Department of Health (DoH), indicate that 400,000 people in the sector have been vaccinated. Whilst the bulk of the vaccinations have been recorded, using the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) platform, a large number of vaccinations were registered on paper to assist in those vaccination sites, where there were some challenges with the electronic system. The paper-based vaccinations are currently being captured into the system. We believe that there is a lot of enthusiasm in the sector; and this clearly shows in the numbers that we have recorded. The DoH has offered additional doses to vaccinate other people in the sector, who were initially not included. We initially targeted 582,000 people in the sector but we have now loaded on the EVDS system 789,554 who include food handlers, janitors, and support staff from independent schools and ECD centres located within school premises. The DBE will be requesting the DoH for an extension to conclude the programme properly and to accommodate those excluded in terms of the criteria outlined by the Department of Health,” said the Minister.

“We have 16,000 teachers who have been on special leave due to comorbidities. The DBE held a Special ELRC meeting on Friday, 09 July 2021, to discuss a proposal in the form of a draft collective agreement. This draft collective agreement aims to guide the operational requirements for educators employed in terms of the Employment of Educators Act, 1998 (Act No. 76 of 1998), following the implementation of the Basic Education Sector COVID-19 Vaccination Programme. The draft collective agreement will serve as a guide to manage vulnerable employees in the context of the pandemic, as mentioned in the Regulations issued in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002. The DBE is hoping to finalise this process with the teacher unions before schools reopen. We have discussed this matter with the teacher unions, and all five, that are part of the ELRC, are in full support of this position. There will therefore be no need for the DBE to develop any additional policies during this period, because it already has sufficient policies in place to address the current situation of the pandemic; and while the vaccination process is being implemented.” 

“The vaccination programme is one of the biggest projects we have had to undertake in a short space of time. It requires coordination, communication and cooperation. While we have made good progress, there have been some challenges that we have also encountered. There continues to be discrepancies between people who are submitted and those who appear on the EVDS system. Nationally, names appear on the database but there is a problem at the sites when people get there to get their vaccination. We have received reports of people having been turned away and some do not return as a result because they travel long distances to reach the sites. Another matter that has come to our attention is that provinces have informed educators in Independent Schools and SGB appointed personnel not to go to sites until they are sure that they appear on the EVDS. This has slowed down the number of people turning up at the sites in this category. There are myths about the vaccines that we also need to address in our communities”. 

Minister Motshekga appealed to everybody to get vaccinated for the sector to focus on stabilising schooling, reassuring that, “all vaccines used in South Africa have been tested and approved by SAHPRA – an entity of the National Department of Health created by Government with the responsibility to regulate health products in the country. Getting the vaccine will protect you from severe illness, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19. When you are vaccinated, your immune system will recognise the virus quickly when you get infected with COVID-19 and prevent you from getting severely ill or dying. Get vaccinated, you will be doing it for yourself and your loved ones. When we collectively take the decision to get vaccinated, we take a step closer to returning to getting back to life as we knew it. The learning losses are getting worse daily and the impact on the system will indeed affect negatively in the future. We will need to work together to ensure that we get vaccinated and continue to comply with the health and safety protocols relevant to Level 4 of the risk adjusted strategy”. 

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