‘We are not invincible’ – Teachers fearful ahead of reopening of schools

More than 1,600 teachers have died after contracting the virus since the pandemic hit our shores - that's more than double the number of health care workers and police officers combined.

Picture: Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Teachers have told Eyewitness News of their fear and anxiety around returning to the classroom.

In two weeks public schools will reopen for the first time under the adjusted level three lockdown restrictions and against the backdrop of a second wave of COVID infections which is significantly more intense than the first.

More than 1,600 teachers have died after contracting the virus since the pandemic hit our shores - that's more than double the number of health care workers and police officers combined.

“You try to present a brave face, but practically you are not invincible,” said Vuyisile Zali, principal at Kagiso Senior Secondary, which is located west of Johannesburg.

He’s lost six colleagues from other schools to COVID-19 in the last week alone.

Zali said teachers felt left in the dark, with no communication or advice on what they should do differently to protect themselves against the new more contagious variant of the virus.

“The absence of any clear plan on how we are going to manage the reopening of schools in the second wave – you are creating more panic."

Golden Phogole is a teacher at a Johannesburg primary school. He has co-morbidities and said he feared going back to school amid a second wave.

“If only the department had better plans in place. They can lose more money rather than anticipating to lose more people.”

Vusumzi Zweni is a principal at a primary school in Somerset West and said the anxiety of returning amid the uncertainty of the second variant of the virus was taking a mental toll on teachers.

“The mental wellbeing of educators and learners, I don’t think the department really assisted in that regard. I think that is even more crucial.”

Teachers are expected to return to the classrooms two days before children arrive in two weeks’ time.

Meanwhile, the Basic Education Department's director general Mathanzima Mweli said a team was working on strengthening schools’ health protocols.

“We will observe what is happening for the next three months and after that we are going to make decisions and we are going to strengthen our health protocols.”

Download the Eyewitness News app to your iOS or Android device.