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Covid-19 forces closure of 20 schools in Buffalo City

11 June 2020 - 15:58 By Gugu Phandle
A pupil sanitises her hands on her first day back at school on Monday. Already 20 schools in the Buffalo City metro have been forced to close due to Covid-19 infections.
A pupil sanitises her hands on her first day back at school on Monday. Already 20 schools in the Buffalo City metro have been forced to close due to Covid-19 infections.

Twenty schools in Buffalo City have been forced to close in the first week of the government's ambitious plan to return pupils to class.

As people affiliated to the schools test positive for the coronavirus, there is little option but to send the grade 7 and 12 pupils home.

An additional seven schools in the metro had people who were under investigation for the virus, but their results came back negative, allowing schooling to continue.  

DispatchLIVE has seen a report dated June 9 that was issued by the department of education's district director. It lists the schools affected, the number of people under investigation at each school and the current status of each school.

Nkwezana Public School in Sunrise-On-Sea, outside East London, has the most people under investigation for the coronavirus - 25.

The report said the wife of a scholar transport driver had tested positive.

“Learners spent the whole day at school and interacted with educators and other learners. The school closed to be fumigated and cleaned. Learners and educators are being self-isolated pending the results of the driver,” the report states.

Schools closed are Central Primary, De Vos Malan, Kingsridge High, Greenpoint Secondary, Makinana Primary, Tyutyu Primary, Bulembu Primary, Fort Murray Primary, Hope College, Westbank High, Parkside Primary, Lujiza Primary, John Bisseker High, Umtiza High, Voorpos Primary, New Generation Primary, Aqua Vista Primary, Nkwezana Primary, Lukhanya Primary and East London Secondary.

The seven schools where people's tests have come back negative for Covid-19 are Dale College, Selborne College, Selborne Primary, Mbulelo Public School, Buffalo City Inner Primary, Grens Hoërskool and Morgenster Primary.

Education spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said he would issue a statement to DispatchLIVE, although this was not sent in time for publication. Education MEC Fundile Gade was in a meeting and unable to attend to DispatchLIVE's call, while superintendent-general Themba Kojana's cellphone was off.

Greenpoint Secondary school governing body (SGB) chair Leon Cassels said it was “very unfortunate” that the school had a case, despite precautions taken by parents, staff and pupils.

The report said the school was awaiting test results and was being fumigated after a teacher tested positive.

“People need to be vigilant at all times. The interaction we have with people has a ripple effect. We are undergoing a contact tracing process and things should reach some form of normality next week,” said Cassels.

Voorpos Primary principal André Matthee said a staff member at the school showed symptoms of “flu/Covid-19" and was awaiting test results.

“We have been advised that all staff and learners are to remain at home under self-isolation pending the results of the Covid-19 test. You [parents and guardians] will be kept up to date as the situation develops,” he said.

Ben Chetty, principal of East London Secondary School, said a parent of a grade 12 pupil tested positive for Covid-19.

“The pupil was only informed of the results once he returned home from school. The pupil immediately informed his form teacher. All grade 12 and 7 pupils will remain home,” he said.

Social media list 'fake news'

On Wednesday, a list claiming that 16 schools in the metro were closed due to Covid-19 was shared widely on Facebook and WhatsApp. All 16 schools appeared in the district director's report. However, only eight of the schools on the list were confirmed to be closed. 

Provincial health spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo slammed those who circulated the list, saying the distribution of fake news “only caused more anxiety among parents, pupils and educators”. 

“We're not only fighting Covid-19 - we're fighting fake news too. This all leads to fear among health workers and unnecessary panic. What is the intention of posting such a list? Are you trying to say parents must stop taking their kids to those schools? What about the mental state of the kids who see these posts?” asked Kupelo.  

“We need to be responsible citizens - not  unwittingly affect our children psychologically. We're talking about teenagers who can read and understand these posts. You are going to cause anxiety among children when you post unverified, false information.”

Rodney Kennedy, a SGB member at Dale College, which appeared on both the social media list and in the official report, said things had been running smoothly at the school.

“We opened successfully on Monday and everything has been going well since then. Our learners are screened multiple times a day and we've made sure to abide by health regulations. We don't know how this false news came about but it is really unnecessary during such already stressful times,” he said.