29 Eastern Cape schools close due to positive Covid-19 cases, 48 more have suspected cases

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Disinfecting and cleaning of a school classroom.
Disinfecting and cleaning of a school classroom.
Felix Dlangamandla
  • More than 70 Eastern Cape Schools have closed, either due to a confirmed or suspected Covid-19 case.
  • The Eastern Cape Department of Education has called for calm.
  • The National Association of School Governing Bodies said 31 of the closed schools are in the Buffalo City Metro.

Teaching at seventy-seven Eastern Cape schools has been affected within four days of reopening - some due to confirmed Covid-19 cases and others as a result of suspected cases.

Eastern Cape education department of spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said 48 of the schools were investigating suspicions of the novel coronavirus, and 29 were closed after positive cases were confirmed.

The department, which manages about 5 000 schools, has called for calm.

According to the National Association of School Governing Bodies, 31 of the schools were in the Buffalo City Metro (BCM), incorporating East London, King William's Town, the capital Bhisho and surrounding rural settlements.

Eastern Cape chairperson of the association, Mongameli Peter, said they had warned the department about the premature reopening of schools.

"In Nelson Mandela Bay, there are more than five schools closed and in [the] BCM, there are 31. The numbers are rising by each hour. We are concerned. We had said before that let us use June and July for thorough preparations and open schools in August. This situation is forcing the education stakeholders to review their position on this matter."

One of the latest schools to close in East London is St Anne's Primary in Southernwood.

St Anne's principal Meg Holmes confirmed that the school closed on Wednesday after one of five teachers overseeing 78 Grade 7 pupils was in contact with someone who had tested positive.

"Yes, we are closed until the educator gets their results back, possibly by Monday. If they are negative, we will reopen. The person who tested positive is not from our school. The teacher was called to get tested too," Holmes said on Thursday.

Schools were reopened in a staggered manner for pupils in grades 12 and 7 on Monday, amid great anxiety from parents, SGBs (school governing bodies) and teacher unions over the possible rapid spread of Covid-19.

The province has two metropoles - Nelson Mandela Bay and Buffalo City - and six district municipalities. Schools in these areas were expecting 13 000 pupils in grades 12 and 7 to return on Monday. 

West Bank High School in East London was closed within hours of reopening on the first day of school on Monday after a parent tested positive for Covid-19. Principal Tom Dreyer sent all his 49 Grade 7 pupils home and barred parents from entering the premises.

The affected pupil is expected to get test results on Friday, Pulumani said on Monday.

On Thursday, Pulumani said: "We are reliant on science-led interventions in this uncertain time and will not willingly put any learner or teacher's life in danger. Adherence to these operating procedures is non-negotiable and action will be taken against any principal who opens a school that has not been cleaned or where there is a lack of PPE (personal protective equipment)."

Pulumani added it was important to remember that cleaning or fogging is effective in killing the virus on school surfaces.

"Schools do not need to be closed for an indefinite amount of time as cleaning occurs. After advice from the health department on who needs to isolate and [after] cleaning has been done, schooling can resume.

Pulumani added: "We continue to wish all of those infected with Covid-19 a speedy recovery and are still grateful that we have not recorded any deaths in this province due to this disease as a sector. Through our preparation and round-the-clock monitoring, we hope to keep it this way. We aim to save the academic year, while preserving lives."

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