'It doesn't matter how tired or scared we are, we carry on': Healthcare workers' appeal to teachers

"If you haven’t resuscitated a Covid-19 patient, you’re not a frontline worker." (FG Trade/Getty Images)
"If you haven’t resuscitated a Covid-19 patient, you’re not a frontline worker." (FG Trade/Getty Images)

After reading our recently published articles on teachers' fears and anxieties, frontline workers have asked: 'What about us?'  They say, without teachers to educate their children, they will not be able to save lives. 

Here we've compiled a collection of responses from healthcare workers as well as other South Africans who share their frustrations with the teaching community. 

"What do we expect from those on the frontline?" asks this teacher

My beloved colleague, you are better off than nurses and doctors who are dealing directly with those infected with the virus. So, if you are so devastated, what should we expect from those on the front line?  

Among those people who will die are teachers, nurses, doctors and police officers.

So when a teacher dies of the coronavirus, then we should not believe that this was mainly because of reopening schools, because the same teacher goes to the mall, uses public transport and has a husband or wife who might also work, thus exposing himself or herself to the virus.

Therefore, to think the virus can only come from the school is unfair. 

"Dear teacher," writes a (very tired) general practitioner

I recognise the valuable work that you do with our children. However, I think that during a pandemic, it is important to be realistic with regards to the reopening of a country after a lockdown. 

I am a general practitioner in a small town, and I also perform duties as an emergency care physician in a private hospital. The nurses, doctors and allied healthcare professionals are the true frontline workers.

If you have not performed a nasopharyngeal swab on a Covid-19 patient, if you have not taken their blood, done their x-rays, intubated or resuscitated these individuals, please do not call yourselves frontline workers.

It is offensive to those of us who put our lives at risk every day to protect even you, the teacher. It does not matter how tired we are, how scared we are for ourselves or our loved ones – we are bound by oath to serve the people. 

Covid-19 will be with us for a long time to come – it will not disappear overnight, and we have to adjust accordingly. Businesses must open, schools must open, the economy must be revived. Otherwise, our country will die in poverty.   

Taking someone's temperature every day and filling in a questionnaire does not make you a frontline worker. It is every single person's responsibility to ensure health and safety in our places of business.   

Covid-19 presents new challenges to all of us, and we can no longer stand back and presume that we do not have a responsibility.

The chances of being infected in a shopping centre or grocery store are much higher than in the protected school environment.

We are all in this together: stop complaining, do the job for which you are paid and if you are socially responsible, you will help to save the lives of our healthcare workers so that we will be available when you need us.   

"Why should teachers sit at home with income?" asks this parent

As much as I recognise the fear of this teacher and her colleagues, I have to question why she thinks this only affects her. What about the staff in the stores she shops at or the medical staff who have to face the same problems, some of whom are parents to those kids and also fearful?

Should they all just sit at home? Would it be okay for the government to agree to teachers not working? After all, some of the parents of those kids have lost their jobs and are sitting at home with no income. So why should teachers sit at home with income?   

"This virus has affected all of us, not only you": A reminder from a fellow South African 

I understand the anxiety that you must feel each day you go to school, but there are a few things that you are missing in all of this. All South Africans and indeed, most of the world's population have been affected by this virus.

Both mentally and physically, this period has been very challenging. Your situation is not unique. The difference is that you, as a person who is paid by the state, have thus far received your salary every month. You are extremely lucky in this regard.

A LOT of people in this country had to bear the fact that their salaries have been cut, or have had to endure hardship and make do without a salary until the lockdown eased. Others were not so fortunate and had no work to return to because their companies had to either close down or scale back on staff to survive. 

Also think of the people carrying out essential services, such as hospital staff, who have worked throughout the worst of this period and have had to deal with the sick. What about the people working at grocery stores that supply essentials?

They have to deal with people from all walks of life every day to ensure that we have the basics we need? 

I also work in an environment that I come into contact with a lot of people and yes, we are taking precautions. Our return to work was planned and we put protocols into place to minimise the risks involved.

The fact is, however, that the risks cannot be taken away completely. I haven't seen my family in more than two months as I work in a different province and cannot travel home every weekend like I used to.

You, on the other hand, return to your family every day. In that sense, you are blessed. This virus has affected all of us, not only you. You still have a choice. You can take unpaid leave and stay home.

You will most likely not get your salary, but hey, so do a lot of other South Africans at the moment. 

A frustrated healthcare worker's plea to the teaching community

I am appalled and frankly disgusted with the attitude of the teachers. They are letting their students down at a time when they need them most. I am a frontline healthcare worker.

Can you imagine if we said close down the hospitals? What if we said we cannot come to work because we are afraid and tired, working 10 times harder than normal? We also don't get to sit down and have tea and lunch breaks and we are doing triple the amount of work.

We too have vulnerable family members, but our patients and chosen jobs come first. We choose to help fight this pandemic and not compound the problems by irrational fear.

Our kids need to be in school while we need to be at work. This is not forever. It will pass but please, just suck it up and do your jobs.  

"It makes me mad," writes an essential services worker

I'm not on the front line exactly, but I'm one of the many thousands of laboratory workers in this country providing an essential service. I have worked through all the lockdown levels. 

I am married with young kids. I am lucky to have a husband who has been a huge help through all this, but I am tired.  I am sure you are too. It's been a long four months of trying to survive.

My kids have been back at school for three weeks already, and I feel less stressed knowing they are getting an education. They are happier as well, even with all the changes. But now the teachers' unions are at it again. "Close the schools!" "Our lives are at risk!"

Honestly, as an essential services worker, it makes me mad. We have been out there for months trying to juggle it all, to serve you and your families and keep things going as best as possible. We are at risk every day.

Can you imagine if all the people in healthcare, the shops, and the police said that and refused to work and stayed safe at home? How would you eat or get medical treatment?  

Wear your mask, wash/sanitise your hands, practise social distancing, clean your working areas with 70% alcohol or disinfectant, open a window and carry on. Covid-19 is here to stay for the next while. Learn to adapt. 

The biggest risk to teachers is their own colleagues and friends they see socially. Or the 100% full taxi they may travel in.

I get that you have a lot to do, watch kids, clean, teach, wear personal protective equipment. We are all trying our best.

I understand if people have comorbidities and are concerned about working.

But I am sure that many people carrying out essential services have comorbidities too. I know many in healthcare myself and they have carried on working - to serve you, to serve the public. Don't talk about closing the schools because you're scared.

I also didn't take an oath. I wasn't trained to work in a pandemic. But I carry on. 


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