KZN education department confirms another death at a matric marking centre

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KZN education department confirms another death at a matric marking centre

By Chris Ndaliso, Sne Masuku Time of article published 1h ago

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DURBAN – Another teacher has died of Covid-19 after she was rushed to hospital from the Inanda Seminary marking centre in Durban, where the Mathematics Literacy matric papers are being marked, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education spokesperson Muzi Mahlambi has confirmed.

The educator reported for duty at the marking centre on January 6 and the following day she reported that she was not feeling well. She was then rushed to hospital.

“On Monday morning, she passed away while in hospital. The department passes condolences to her family and the entire department of education,” Mahlambi said yesterday.

A total of 238 teachers, which constitutes 0.5% of the matric examinations markers, have tested positive for Covid-19 nationally. One teacher died on Saturday after he was rushed to hospital from a marking centre in Estcourt in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Those who have come into contact with the teachers who died of Covid-19 have been placed in isolation.

About 18% of the markers did not arrive at the marking centres. Acording to the teacher unions, this was due to the fear of contracting the virus.

The department said yesterday it managed to get the replacements for the markers who did not arrive for duty.

Basic education director-general Mathanzima Mweli said the majority of the markers who tested positive come from the Eastern Cape, where teachers were tested before they could enter the marking centres.

"The Eastern Cape had the resources to do this because, remember, it's where the second wave started, hence the government has provided resources there," he said.

The Eastern Cape was followed by Mpumalanga, which had nine markers who tested positive, discovered after they reported on duty, and Gauteng with six cases. KZN have reported four cases, including the teacher who died in hospital after he was rushed there from a marking centre.

Limpopo, the Northern Cape and North West have three cases each.

Despite these numbers, Mweli said the department does not foresee any threat that could delay the release of the matric results as scheduled.

Basic Education minister Angie Motshekga is expected to release the results on February 22 and the provincial MECs on February 23.

Director for national examinations Priscilla Ogunbanjo said this is a small number of teachers who have tested positive, but the department would rather have no Covid-19 cases at all.

Mweli said he was satisfied with the progress made in the first week of the marking process and the department was doing everything it could to monitor that safety protocols are followed at the matric marking centres.

But teacher unions said they were not fully satisfied with the safety standards at some marking centres.

The SA Democratic Teachers Union said it was not happy that the department only heeded to its call that rapid tests should be done on all teachers after the death of a teacher at a marking centre in Estcourt, when this should have been done anyway by people responsible for compliance at the centre.

The Educators Union of South Africa said it had warned the department of the dangers of teachers going to marking centres without being given the vaccine.

According to Simphiwe Mpungose, the EUSA general secretary, teachers have been exposed to inhumane treatment at some of the marking centres.

He said they have received reports and proof that there is no social distancing at some of the accommodation facilities used by markers.

"We have pictures showing beds placed so close to each other at a marking centre in Limpopo. There are no flushing toilets, no bathing facilities and no social distancing.

He said they also received complaints from teachers that once discovered to be Covid-19 positive, were being placed in isolation in inhumane conditions.

"At a KZN marking centre, teachers who had shared a room with a positive teacher were placed in isolation, their food was pushed under the door like that for dogs. These teachers now require counselling after the treatment they received.

’’We believe that information is being hidden at other marking centres because the employer's work is more important than the lives of the markers.

"Now through these Covid-19 cases, it's clear that the department was lying through the teeth when it told the nation that they were ready and had put in place mechanisms to avoid any infections or fatalities in the marking centres,"said Mpungose.

Mahlambi said the department will investigate the allegations of inhumane treatment of teachers in isolation and if found to be true, it would not hesitate to act on them.

Mweli said, however, said the department's priority is safety and health of the markers above everything.

"Nothing should be above the safety and health of the teachers, not even the quality of marking.

’’If the markers are not healthy, we will not get the quality marking that we are looking for,” said Mweli.

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