Current stats show that about 379 pupils have tested positive for Covid-19 in the province since June 1, when the first grades returned to classes.
In a statement yesterday, the provincial Education Department released an analysis of the virus’s effect on schools.
A total of 1 920 confirmed teaching and non-teaching staff have tested positive for Covid-19 since March 22. This includes cases that were reported before schools re-opened, the department said, adding that the number of new weekly staff cases is currently decreasing.
Thirty staff members, 21 of them teachers, have succumbed to the disease.
“As at Friday, there are 333 active Covid-19 cases amongst WCED staff. This amounts to 0.8% of WCED staff,” Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said.
“We have, very sadly, lost 30 staff members, 21 of whom are teachers, to the disease. We offer our deepest condolences to their families, friends and colleagues in this difficult time.
It is especially difficult when health restrictions limit our ability to mourn together,” said Schäfer.
She added that it was encouraging to see that the overwhelming majority of staff members who were infected have already recovered.
“No deaths of learners have been reported to the WCED. These numbers accord with the advice received from health experts that children, in general, are less likely to get or spread Covid-19 and that they are less likely to get seriously ill from it.”
She added that no evidence of mass spreading was seen in schools.
“We do expect to see cases reported by schools in areas where there is high community transmission.
“What we are not seeing is evidence that staff or learners are at greater risk of acquiring Covid-19 at school than elsewhere.
“In fact, organisations that have been monitoring our schools have commented that learners practise better physical distancing and hygiene measures at school than they do outside of school in the surrounding community.”
She said education was important, and they did not understand the call for schools to be shut.
“Schooling specifically has been targeted for closure. Why are other services – such as supermarkets, banks, cleaning services, government offices, and many others that have reported cases and had to close temporarily for cleaning – considered essential, while education is being considered a ‘nice to have’ and that we can ‘sacrifice the year’ in education.”
Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has been in meetings with unions and other relevant role-players as calls for schools to close continue to grow. She is set to make an announcement on the matter this week.