35 exam markers test positive in Estcourt

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Thirty-five of the 380 teachers marking matric papers in Estcourt have tested positive for Covid-19.

One teacher is known to have died.

The figures were revealed by the DA’s spokesperson on education, Dr Imran Keeka, following an inspection by the province’s education portfolio committee on Thursday.

He now wants the Department of Education (DoE) to test all teachers for the coronavirus before they leave the marking centres and are reunited with family and friends next week.

“The nature of the virus is such that it can cripple almost any process in the blink of an eye.”
SAOU Stephan van den Berg.

“Our province has already lost several dedicated educators, who were part of the marking process, as a result of Covid-19,” Keeka said.

“With more than 500 markers at some centres, the DA believes that these venues have the potential to become super-spreader centres, hence our call that the DoE ensures that all involved are tested once the marking process has been completed.”

Teaching unions have also expressed concerns about the safety of markers and want the government to ensure they get access to rapid testing.

Stefan Viljoen, the labour relations officer for the Public Servants Association, warned that if every marker who tests positive, and every person who has been in contact them tests positive or has to isolate, it will impact the marking process and potentially the release of the matric results.

The SAOU teaching union, meanwhile, also believes the potential for disruption is high.

“The nature of the virus is such that it can cripple almost any process in the blink of an eye,” spokesperson Stephan van den Berg said.

Keeka said he was also concerned about the “abysmal” screening processes at the Estcourt centre.

“This included my own temperature being taken as 34,2 degrees and then recorded as 36,2. This is fraudulent,” he said.

“To add to this, other items on the checklist, including a vehicle search for any contraband and other items, was not conducted, further compromising the integrity of the marking centre.

“It is little wonder that people are able to slip through the cracks and enter such facilities — even if they are unwell.”

The Witness approached the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education for a comment, but at the time of going to press none had been received.

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