COVID-19 PTSD ‘exploding’ amongst educators, says Naptosa

Teachers around the country were grieving the loss of colleagues while anxiously preparing for the return of pupils amid the second wave of COVID-19.

FILE: A teacher sanitises the hands of a pupil returning to school in 2020. Picture: Gauteng Provincial Government.

JOHANNESBURG – Many public school teachers who returned to work on Monday may be faced with an overload of responsibilities as the Basic Education Department begins the process to replace their colleagues who died of COVID-19 over the festive season.

Unions said that they lost more than 1,300 educators in the last year, many of them over the holidays.

Teachers around the country were grieving the loss of their colleagues. While they try to cope with that, there is also the added pressure on schools to fill positions with the right skills.

Principal at the Charleston Hill Secondary School in Paarl, Edward Claasen, lost two staff members over the festive season – a clerk and a business studies teacher with over 25 years’ experience.

Claasen said that the school recently started to look for a replacement.

“The governing body will go through all the applications and then they will appoint a suitable teacher.”

He said that the deaths of teachers from COVID-19 had left many feeling anxious.

“How do you motivate a teacher that is so despondent and going through that because of a loss of a colleague, two colleagues, at the end of the day?”

Unions have said they were also worried about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst teachers.

National Professional Teacher's Organisation of South Africa’s Basil Manuel: “PTSD is exploding amongst our educators. We need more support, greater than just from the department.”

Teacher unions said some of their members, particularly those in KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, would not be able to report for duty on Monday as they were sick with COVID.

Meanwhile, the Basic Education Department has urged all teachers to take the COVID-19 vaccine once rolled out to educators.

The department's Director-General Mathanzima Mweli said: “All teachers must be open to using the vaccine given the fact that they are now being considered as the second batch of frontline workers and we agreed with unions to work together with them.”

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