Covid-19 third wave causing 'panic and misery' at Gauteng schools: Lesufi

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. File photo.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. File photo.
Image: SUPPLIED

Twenty schools have been closed while 1,077 educators and 1,977 pupils have tested positive for Covid-19 in Gauteng so far this year.

Provincial education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said this during his 2021/22 budget speech on Thursday.

“The third wave is causing immeasurable panic and misery in our schools,” he said. “To date, we have closed 20 schools due to reported Covid-19 cases. This year alone 1,077 educators tested positive and the number of learners who tested positive was almost double that [1,977].”

He said the department was monitoring the situation and awaiting guidance and advice from health experts.

“We remain open-minded in taking whatever action that will assist to minimise the infections in our schools. We are, however, pleased that the national department of health, jointly with the national department of basic education, have resolved to vaccinate our educators and staff as early as next month,” Lesufi said.

Emerging evidence from studies indicated that the pandemic was giving rise to learning losses and increases in inequality, he added.

“This is not peculiar to SA and developing countries, but it is also impacting on the highest-income countries. We are encountering some of the most challenging times our nation has ever experienced,” he said.

Lesufi said in the absence of any intervention, the learning losses arising from the Covid-19 pandemic were likely to have a long-term compounding negative affect on many children’s future wellbeing.

“It has long been known that decreases in matric pass rates are associated with future declines in employment.”

He said the learning losses could translate into less access to higher education, lower labour market participation, and lower future earnings.

“That said, our programmes continue to respond to the overall national and provincial mandates and priorities for education as contained in the NDP, GGT2030 and sector plans.

“While we have had to adjust to meet the demands imposed by Covid-19, the vision contained in our five-year strategy has not changed and continues to address the outcomes and impacts that will ensure every Gauteng learner has access to quality education that responds to the demands of the fourth industrial revolution.”

Lesufi said the department was looking forward to the vaccination of educators to ensure their safety and increase overall safety in schools and communities.

He said the department's budget for 2021/2022 of R53.4bn, of which 5% was from conditional grants, had been structured to not only respond to learning during the pandemic but to reposition the system to be more resilient under any circumstances.

“Despite the budget declining by 0.3%, or R135m, from R53.5bn in 2020/21 to R53.4bn in 2021/22, we do see the budget growing marginally over the MTEF [medium-term expenditure framework] at an average rate of 2.5%.”

TimesLIVE


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