School cleaners in the Eastern Cape share their experience of heading back to work


The Covid-19 lockdown and school closures have had a devastating impact on people around the country, as many lost jobs or were forced to accept salary cuts. 

Parent24 spoke to two single working mothers, who are both cleaners at schools in the Eastern Cape, about their experiences of working through the pandemic.

Mama Miriam, 33, and Mama Sindy, 42, are the main breadwinners in their homes.

On her experience of working through lockdown, Mama Sindy, who works at a private school told us, "My employers are lovely people. I was not working in Level 5 and Level 4. I only started work in Level 3 of lockdown."

"But I got paid all my money, even though I was not working, and I was able to support my children," she revealed. 

Mama Mirriam, who works at a public school, had a different experience. "I have not been working ever since the lockdown had started, and I have not received any payment from where I work."

She told Parent24 that she recently got a call from the public school, to say that she should come back soon. "Hopefully by month end I will get all my money," she told us. 

Safety measures

Mama Sindy told us that since she works at a private school, they adhere to protocols.

"They are always courteous about their image. Our school is safe during this time," she told us.

"We get sanitized as we enter at the gate. Our temperature gets checked before entering the gate, and we also do this to the children at school," she said.

"We also maintain social distancing. We have gloves and masks. We have aprons to cover our clothes so that the virus has nowhere to enter. I think that we are safe," she shared.

Mama Mirriam, on the other hand, told us that her workplace is less secure.

"When we enter the workplace we get sanitized some times, some times we wash our own hands when there are no sanitizers. The temperature is checked regularly."

Suspected cases

Mama Sindy told us that when it comes to getting sick at work, teachers are allowed leave when they are sick.

"Also with us as caretakers, if you went to a funeral on the weekend, you are encouraged to quarantine yourself for 14 days after the funeral." 

Mama Miriam said that at her public school "We continue as usual. We were not told what to do. But we encourage each other to report it when you come into contact with someone who is sick." 

Underlying illnesses

Mama Sindy told us that if you just have an underlying illness," there is nothing that says stay at home if you are scared of contracting the virus, we are all encouraged to be at work."

Mama Miriam said that if you bring in proof that you have a chronic illness, you're allowed to stay at home.

Going forward

"We are still fine for now," Mama Sindy told us, but at her private school there is a teacher that is quarantined because of an alleged case of Covid-19.

"We hope that if the teacher is positive, children and staff who made contact with the person will be quarantined too." 

"Closing the whole school is not an option for now, but if the school get confirmed positive cases I think they will close," Mama Sindy said. 

Mama Miriam said that at her public school the staff do not feel safe at the moment, because they do not know who among them may be sick.

"We hope, for the sake of our children and us, that no one has it. With how this coronavirus is spreading, it would be safer to be at home and not at work." 

"Sanitising and temperature checking is not enough, more needs to be done," she added. 

How has your workplace responded to the need for safety protocols?  


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