'The forgotten sector': ECD teachers excluded from vaccine rollout

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ECD teachers are excluded from the vaccine rollout set aside for teachers. Photo: Getty Images
ECD teachers are excluded from the vaccine rollout set aside for teachers. Photo: Getty Images

ECD teachers are once again forgotten in the rollout for teachers to receive the Covid-19 vaccine over the coming months.

In a press release sent out by the Department of Education (DBE), following Minister Angie Motshekga's speech on the weekend, it was announced that at least 300 000 vaccines from Johnson and Johnson were earmarked for teachers to be vaccinated.

It was also mentioned that the rollout is targeting at least 582 000 people to be vaccinated in the next two weeks.

However, this does not include teachers who serve under the Department of Social Development. 

Parent24 spoke to Jennifer McQuillan, an ECD owner, and co-founder of ECD Owners of SA, who runs the campaign HELP SA ECDS on Facebook.

McQuillan has been asking why ECD teachers were not included in this rollout. She says, "ECD centre teachers are teachers. Is this not for teachers!? Does it state anywhere that this is only for DBE teachers and support staff and not DSD teachers and staff? If so, why the discrimination? We all work with children."

Read: Unhappy ECD practitioners call on parliament for reform

Another let down

McQuillan tells Parent24 that the ECD sector is "always forgotten" regarding essential matters.

"Schools reopened last year after the hard lockdown. We had to take the DSD to court to reopen," she explains. 

Another let down was with the government stimulus package where DSD had a very complicated and confusing system based online and led to most principals who do not have wifi unable to receive the package, added McQuillan.

Do teachers matter? 

The vaccine rollout is yet another setback for the ECD teachers and staff, leaving the ECD teachers and staff members wondering if they matter as teachers.

McQuillan believes that "It is not about who you are hired by (a Primary School or an ECD Centre), it is about the ROLE you play in society for the vaccines.... so why are teachers and support staff who work in ECD Centres not included in this vaccine roll out?"

Their plea as ECD owners and teachers is that ECDs should also be included in the vaccine rollout and be valued just like the teachers from private and public schools are valued and are taken care of by the Department of Basic Education.

To get answers, the ECD owners and teachers wrote a letter to the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu.

Also read: The silence where ECD centres are concerned is very loud 

The letter reads as follows:

Dear Minister Lindiwe Zulu,

When we saw that teachers were in the next vaccination rollout, there was much jubilation from the ECD sector!

Our excitement was, however, short-lived. This excludes teachers and support staff under the DSD. Sadly we are not surprised, as we have been here before.

The DBE Minister rallies for her members. Who rallies for us?

Silence from the DSD.
Once again.

#TheForgottenSector

We have had to go to court (twice!) or head on to the streets to make our voices heard.

We surely deserve better? The young children in our care certainly deserve better! The most vulnerable in society are ignored. Yet again.

#TheForgottenSector

Our ECD centres are in recovery mode amidst a pandemic. We have needed help. No help has been forthcoming for the vast majority.

We are surviving by helping each other. Day in and day out. It's been nonstop for a year. We are absolutely exhausted. Utterly depleted.

#TheForgottenSector

We are teachers.
We are assistants.
We are principals.
We are chefs.
We are nurses.
We are cleaners.
We are caretakers.

Our ECD children are our life's work. This is sadly neither recognised or valued. By you or society at large.

#TheForgottenSector

Please add our incredibly hardworking ECD Sector to the teacher vaccination rollout. We also matter!

HELP SA ECDS GET VACCINATED.

Thank you,

HELP SA ECDS

On behalf of the ECD Sector of South Africa.

McQuillan says that they have sent this letter via email and on social media on 20 and 21 June directly to the Department of Social Development, Department of Basic Education and Presidency.

Although the DBE and Presidency acknowledged reciept of the letter, there was no response from the Department of Social Development.

*This story will be updated once there is a response from the above mentioned departments.

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