Teachers accuse Soweto principal of keeping school open despite positive cases
TimesLIVE has learnt that teaching and learning has been halted at Onkgopotse Tiro Primary School in Soweto after accusations that the school principal knowingly carried on with schooling for three days despite four teachers testing positive for Covid-19.
Three sources, who spoke to TimesLIVE on condition of anonymity, said teachers were shocked when school principal Wandile Kubheka broke the news on Wednesday.
The sources have intimate knowledge of the school and did not want their names nor positions revealed, insisting that "threats" against them had already been made.
"He [the principal] told staff that he learnt about the cases on Sunday but didn’t tell any of the teachers and staff until Wednesday afternoon. Teachers were shocked by the possibility that they had been potentially exposing themselves and students to Covid-19," said one source.
"When they asked why he didn’t inform them immediately, he did not respond."
The source said when teachers asked if parents and pupils would be told about the cases, Kubheka insisted that it would be business as usual as he didn’t know how to raise the matter with parents and pupils.
A second source told TimesLIVE that teachers and staff were threatened by Kubheka for sharing the information with parents.
“He called a meeting on Thursday morning to say that he is aware that some staff shared the information with outside parties but no one would come forward. He then said he would find the person or people involved and will ‘deal’ with them.”
A community member, who also asked to remain anonymous, told TimesLIVE that she witnessed a number of parents fetching their children from school after news of the positive cases was "leaked".
"They were angry and they confronted the school principal, asking why he kept the matter under wraps and risked their children's lives.
"Another parent told me that her child stopped going to school earlier this week after she told her that there were rumours about one of the teachers being sick."
Kubheka told TimesLIVE he would not comment on the matter and referred all queries to the Gauteng education department.
Gauteng education ME Panyaza Lesufi referred the matter to spokesperson Steve Mabona.
Mabona neither confirmed or denied the incidents, but instead told TimesLIVE to watch Thursday's press briefing by Lesufi and "send through questions".
There were no comments made about the school nor the allegations. Questions sent by TimesLIVE were not answered in the briefing.
At the time of publishing this article no response from the Gauteng education department had been received.
UPDATE: The department has confirmed the Covid-positive cases at the school, but refused to answer questions on whether teachers and students were informed when results were out.
Covid-19 in schools
During the briefing, Lesufi said as of Tuesday, 176 schools had been affected by Covid-19. There were 188 confirmed cases of teachers and 58 of learners testing positive for Covid-19.
Lesufi said his department is working closely with the department of health in the province to restore normality at the affected schools.
"All the learners that were affected, they didn't get Covid-19 within the school premises. These are the tests we took before they arrived within the premises of the schools," he said.
The MEC said Johannesburg central, under which Soweto falls, is the hardest hit with 28 schools shut due to confirmed cases. It is followed by Ekurhuleni south, which has closed 15 schools.