Teachers who refuse jab get off scot-free
Thousands refuse Covid vaccination
The Gauteng department of education has its hands tied as thousands of teachers refuse to be vaccinated despite the province being the epicentre of the third Covid-19 wave.
Provincial education spokesperson Steve Mabona said that as of Thursday, which was the final day for all education sector personnel to be vaccinated, 9 113 teachers in the province had declined to take the jab.
Mabona said there were many reasons provided for hesitancy towards vaccination.
“These reasons included religious beliefs and fears about the impact of the vaccine on one’s health. Misinformation also played a role in discouraging educators from taking full advantage of the opportunity to said Mabona.
He pointed out that those not vaccinated could not be punished in any shape or form either, pointing to chapter two of the constitution, which provides that no one should be subjected to “medical or scientific experiments without their informed consent”.
“It is, therefore, not up to us as the GDE [Gauteng department of education] to determine whether the decisions [religious or otherwise] are valid, so long as they are in line with the constitution as stipulated above.”
Mabona also stated, should parents want to know the names or schools where the anti-vaccine teachers were, the department would not condone it.
“Revealing anyone’s personal and private information goes against the individual’s right to privacy and confidentiality as guaranteed in our constitution. We cannot condone that. Further, we will not be party to any plans to stigmatise and ostracise any of our employees based on the medical choices they make.”
Elijah Mhlanga from the Department of Basic Education said while hesitancy was real, there were also other challenges in the vaccination of the sector.
He said while Kwazulu-natal had passed the 100 000 mark on Wednesday, Gauteng was also progressing well following efforts to encourage teachers.
On Friday, the department reported that 437 386 education personnel in total had been vaccinated. The initial target was 582 564.
Asked what would happen when such teachers infected others, Mhlanga said the consequences of that behaviour would be discussed at the Education Labour Relations Council forum.
He said it was the school’s responsibility to tell parents about teachers who were sick with Covid-19 when schools reopen. “In terms of the standard operating procedures that is what must happen,” said Mhlanga.
He said they could not set up policies forcing teachers to get the vaccines because it took up to 18 months to develop a policy.
“We would not have time to go through a policymaking process. The vaccines expire in the next few weeks, so we need to appeal to people’s conscience.”
The CEO of the South African Council of Educators, Ella Mokgalane, urged those teachers who had not yet vaccinated to get jabs.
“To take or not to take the vaccine remains a personal choice; a right, which is entrenched in and protected by the constitution,” said Mokgalane.