After a record 24 teachers perished from the coronavirus (COVID-19), teachers’ trade unions are pleading with relevant authorities to intervene and temporarily close schools .
The trade unions explained that teachers are at high risk of contracting the virus, as they teach many students. The unions maintained that the temporary closure of schools should be done as the roll-out plan of the COVID-19 vaccine jabs is being performed, adding that teachers should be given priority during the vaccination.
According to a memorandum of agreement signed by both the Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union secretary-general, Tobokani Rari and Botswana Teachers Union secretary-general, Agang Gabana, their findings revealed that teachers’ deaths surpass any of the other frontline workers.
“COVID-19 related deaths in the teaching sector, according to the analysis, far surpass any such deaths in any sector of the Frontline Workers as we lost about 24 teachers within two weeks,” read the statement. The memorandum further noted that failure to close schools would result in the community spread of the virus. The unions felt that the COVID-19 task team has not committed to prioritising teachers.
“On the issue of prioritising teachers in the roll-out plan of the COVID-19 vaccine, the National COVID-19 task team could not commit itself, indicating that the prioritisation would be done taking into consideration some various factors.
The COVID-19 National Task Team representatives, however, indicated that the views raised by the unions would be considered,” read the statement.
The trade unions further proposed that given the escalating rate of positive cases in schools and the consequent deaths, enrolment of Form Fours should be delayed pending the roll-out of the vaccine.
However, the Ministry of Basic Education’s
The union parties agreed to suspend physical meetings (accounting for results) and holding of school assemblies. This they felt was a way of complying with the COVID-19 protocols and the response to the current rate of infections and deaths.
The trade unions further noted that it has come to their attention that some schools are now breaching what was agreed that class sizes should not exceed 30 students. They added that in some instances, the one-metre social distancing rule was being compromised.
Also, the parties agreed that this is a clear violation of the protocols and should be rectified forthwith.
“For instance, students who come to school during the morning session would be kept in school and would be found by those who come in the afternoon.
This congests school environments and would cause crowding and compromises social distancing.
Parties agreed that this violates the agreed standards and protocols and should be halted with immediate effect,” the statement read.
The Monitor has been reliably informed that the MoBE and teachers trade unions had agreed to temporarily close schools, but the decision was overturned by the COVID-19 Presidential Task Force.
The task force is said to be of the view that if schools are closed, students in boarding schools will be released to go home, thus possibly taking the virus into their communities.