23 July 2020
Dozens of angry Govan Mbeki community members and parents in Port Elizabeth demanded that three schools be shut down this week.
This follows rumours that the heads of Thyilulwazi High, Cebelihle Primary and Gertrude Shope Primary were purposefully not disclosing the number of Covid-19 cases at their schools.
At Thyilulwazi, a teacher had tested positive for Covid-19 and seven learners fell ill at the school. At Cebelihle, a teacher who had not been at school since it reopened, died of Covid-19 on Monday. Four learners were also sent home with high temperatures.
The call for a shutdown started on Tuesday when a group of parents went to Cebelihle Primary School and stopped learners from entering the school. They confronted the school principal and School Governing Body, accusing them of hiding Covid-19 cases at the school.
When teaching continued at Cebelihle, the parents reported the matter to community leaders who decided to return to the school on Wednesday. They handed over a petition to each school, demanding that it be closed from Thursday.
Deputy principal of Thyilulwazi High School, Nobonke Solomon, told the group that a teacher has been absent since 26 June due to Covid-19. “We also had a situation where five learners were very sick at the school last week. They complained of severe headaches. Due to the seriousness of their condition I rushed them to the clinic with my own car. On Monday two more learners also fell ill,” she said.
“We hear your concerns but we cannot stand in front of these children and tell them there is no school. We are under the Department of Education,” Solomon said.
Community leader Ndumiso Qwazi urged parents to collect their children’s school work. “We will keep on engaging communities about the situation at our schools,” he said.
Parent Luvuyo Hanise has children in grades 1, 3, 6 and 7. “I panic every time I hear of Covid-19 cases at schools. If these children contract the virus, they will infect everyone at home. We live in a four-room RDP and we won’t be able to isolate ourselves when we are infected. It’s better to prevent the loss of lives now than being sorry.”
Provincial education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said, “This is unfortunate and against the law. It is a few disgruntled people leading this anarchy. Only the national cabinet can take the decision to close schools.”
Teaching at all three schools continued on Thursday.