New cases COVID-19 Dlamini-Zuma

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Umlazi’s Velabahleke High School reports its first COVID-19 case

One of Umlazi’s top-performing schools, Velabahleke High School, closed briefly after a pupil tested positive for COVID-19.

New cases COVID-19 Dlamini-Zuma

Photo: Unsplash

The KwaZulu-Natal school sent pupils home early on Wednesday 15 July and instructed them to return on Monday this week.

Despite this, others at the school are still concerned. One classmate of the infected pupil said she was scared and feared for her life.

“I just wish that things could’ve been different but we find ourselves in a very unfortunate situation,” said one pupil who asked to remain anonymous.

“I understand that we need to come to school everyday because we lost a lot of time when COVID-19 forced schools to close early in March. For most learners, home is not a conducive environment to study and get work done

A teacher who asked not to be identified, also spoke out.

“We acknowledge that our lives are now in danger, especially pupils’ lives because some have come into contact with the learner,” the teacher said.

“We now more than ever need to be careful and take all the necessary precautions. I fear for the infected learner because she’ll now be stigmatised.”

Velabahleke principal gives reassurance

Velabahleke principal Bheki Cedric Mhlongo said the school was following protocols as set out by the Department of Health.

“We screen everyone and isolate those who display symptoms and they only come back to school after getting their results,” Mhlongo said.

He said schools may be one of the safer places for children during the pandemic.

“Generally in townships when children are home they roam the streets the whole day without face masks. That increases their chances of contracting the virus.

“I believe that school is the safest place to be, especially for matriculants in my school. They start at 06:00 and go home at 18:30, that way they don’t come into contact with many people.

“I am in contact with the infected learner’s family and she is currently in quarantine and will come back to school after 14 days.”

Calls for schools to close

Former Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane has been vocal about schools having to rather shut down.

In a video he shared on his social media, Maimane called on the World Health Organisation (WHO), teacher associations, teachers, learners and civil society to help support the school stay-away.

“Let us stand together to say schools must be shut until after the peak point. Infections are riding, the last thing we need is for our schools to become centres where the virus can be spread,” he said.

“Let us shut down schools until the post-peak period. While doing that, we must make sure our matriculants are given digital devices. We can also ensure that all schools that are without personal protective equipment , are supplied with some.

“Furthermore, we can adjust the curriculum so that exams can be written later and assessments done properly.”

Several teacher unions, including the South African Democratic Teacher’s Union (Sadtu), have called for the Department of Basic Education to close schools. There has been an increase in the number of infections among teachers and pupils.

Basic Education and Training Minister Angie Motshekga has detailed how more than 1 260 pupils and 2 740 teachers had been infected by COVID-19 since the return of Grade 7 and 12 pupils on 28 June.