Joy, hope and concern as KZN's teacher vaccination drive kicks off

23 June 2021 - 13:52 By Mluleki Mdletshe
Primary school principal Nomusa Lushaba receives her vaccine.
Primary school principal Nomusa Lushaba receives her vaccine.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

Fifty-seven-year-old primary school principal Nomusa Lushaba could hardly contain her joy when she became one of the first educators in KwaZulu-Natal to receive her Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday.

Lushaba, the principal of Duduzani Primary School in Ntuzuma, north of Durban, was among hundreds of educators, members of school governing body associations, teacher union members and support staff who gathered at the KwaMashu Indoor Sports Centre to receive their jabs.

Education MEC Kwazi Mshengu, with health MEC Nomagugu Simelane, led the vaccination drive launch for teachers in the province.

Lushaba described the vaccine as “just like getting an injection when you have the flu”.

“The day is going very well. The nurses are very friendly. Taking the vaccine itself was painless and over in minutes. I want to advise everyone in SA and the teaching sector to get vaccinated because there is nothing to fear.

“It will help us a lot to be able to continue with our work,” she said.

Mshengu expressed delight at the launch of the rollout but also addressed concerns relating to the programme.

“We are here to pass on a message to our educators that as we begin our programme of 70 vaccine sites across the province — we wish to ensure that everything is going according to plan as we have just started,” he said.

“The message is that all teachers and support staff must come out in their numbers and get vaccinated to protect and educate our schools.

“All leaders of the various stakeholders are happy with the progress. Though some issues were raised, such as that the number of sites in the province may be short, we agreed to start this programme in the manner that we did.”

According to Mshengu, 127,000 registered teachers are expected to be vaccinated across the sites with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

He said the rollout drive aimed at vaccinating every teacher in the province over the next two weeks.

“We will continue until we have vaccinated all education staff in the province. There is nothing to fear. We appeal to the public not to believe in the negative myths that are being associated with the vaccination.

“As educators and respected individuals in their communities, we expect teachers to send a clear and positive message about the importance of getting vaccinated,” said Mshengu.

Also in attendance was Nomarashiya Caluza, the South African Democratic Teachers' Union secretary-general in KwaZulu-Natal.

Caluza said one of the concerns raised by the organisation was that the number of centres did not consider the vastness of districts in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We are still concerned about the number of centres in some districts. We are still concerned that unions were never involved in some districts in terms of planning.

“That is why we are not confident that the proper vaccination will be starting smoothly in some centres.

“It was important that we sit together as stakeholders, engage on how best can the education staff living in far away areas be accommodated to ensure that they arrive on time,” said Caluza.

Nkosinathi Mahlalela, the headmaster of Sicelulwazi Primary School, echoed the MEC’s sentiments, admitting that the misconceptions about the vaccine had had an impact on some educators’ decision to get vaccinated.

“There needs to be a strategy to eliminate fear and also kill the negative stories being spread. We need to understand that everyone now needs to respect what the government has put in place, because in future it will come in handy to have complied and got the vaccine,” said Mahlalela.

“We received a management plan from our director, informing us of the schools and dates to come and get the vaccine. We came as a team of staff from the school.”