'No Jab, No Return To School'

Screening: Teachers are still waiting for the vaccine.PIC MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Screening: Teachers are still waiting for the vaccine.PIC MORERI SEJAKGOMO

As students prepare to return to schools in two weeks' time, teachers have vowed not to set foot in the classroom before they get their COVID-19 jab. Learning is scheduled to resume on August 17, after almost a month's recess due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Teachers say they want to get vaccinated before they head back to the classrooms.

Teachers’ unions, Botswana Teachers Union (BTU) and Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Union (BOSETU) have started a joint campaign aimed at putting pressure on the government to vaccinate teachers before schools reopen. The campaign is called ‘no vaccine for teachers, no return to school’. The unions say they can’t allow teachers to risk their lives when there is no commitment on the part of the government to vaccinate them.

BOSETU president, Winston Radikolo said they want the government to prioritise teachers in the vaccine queue when the next batch of vaccine arrives next week. “We got it that the vaccine will be arriving next week.

So we want to pressure the government to vaccinate teachers. If they don’t, we will instruct our teachers to stay home,” Radikolo said. Radikolo said the government has failed to come up with a proper plan on the rollout of the vaccine, especially for teachers who are considered frontline workers. “It is evident that there is no proper plan. They are haphazard in their actions, so we don't understand why teachers have to continue risking their lives,” he added.

Radikolo recently told The Monitor that teachers have grown frustrated by the endless promises without any delivery on the part of the government. BTU secretary general, Agang Gabana said although all frontline workers are at risk, schools have become a death trap. "We understand that every one is a priority, but for teachers it is different because schools are super spreaders. When we look at the graph, it reflects a trajectory of the death toll in the teaching sector. If there was a proper plan, we could have used the first 14 days to administer first jabs to teachers, and then the second dose by end of August. As it is, the number of those vaccinated is too low to talk about," said Agang.

He said their argument is that teachers can't return to the same experience of seeing their colleagues collapse in front of them. He said while there is always a way to deal with the curriculum, there is no way to replace a dead person. The education sector has been one of the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the unions fearing the worst once schools re-open before teachers receive their jabs. The teachers’ unions fought relentlessly with government for the closure of schools and vaccination of teachers due to the alarming COVID-19 infections and related deaths.

Editor's Comment
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