Teachers refusing Covid-19 jab must produce medical report: department

25 July 2021 - 00:00 By prega govender
Yesterday, basic education minister Angie Motshekga said 89% of the targeted 582,000 teaching personnel had been vaccinated.
Yesterday, basic education minister Angie Motshekga said 89% of the targeted 582,000 teaching personnel had been vaccinated.
Image: SUNDAY TIMES/SEBABATSO MOSAMO

The department of basic education is forcing teachers who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid on medical grounds to produce a detailed medical report indicating that taking the vaccine will "pose a health hazard" to them.

This is despite assurances from the department that it is not mandatory for educators to be vaccinated.

Those teachers who refuse to report for duty when schools reopen tomorrow - regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not, or are incapacitated due to a comorbidity - "shall be subjected to the processes provided for in schedule 1 of the Employment of Educators Act".

According to a teachers' union, this means teachers can face possible misconduct charges.

These controversial measures are contained in a circular dated July 23 that was signed by basic education director-general Mathanzima Mweli.

Yesterday, basic education minister Angie Motshekga said 89% of the targeted 582,000 teaching personnel had been vaccinated.

The department's vaccination programme, which was launched on June 23, ended on July 14.

Motshekga said an analysis conducted between March 2020 and February this year showed that 1,678 teachers in public schools had died of Covid-related complications.

Meanwhile, according to the circular, teachers who opt not to be vaccinated on medical grounds must provide a report indicating that they are allergic to the vaccine.

"The department may refer such educators for further medical evaluation which may include the health risk manager," the circular says.

It states that while it is not mandatory for educators to be vaccinated "the employer had put the necessary measures in place to ensure that educators feel safe and are encouraged to take the vaccine".

This is very wrong because even the president of the country said that the vaccinations are voluntary. We are living in a democratic country. The department is contradicting itself
Cynthia Barnes,General secretary of the National Teachers’ Union

It says the vaccinations had concluded on July 14 and "therefore all educators who were granted the concession to work from home would be required to report for duty tomorrow".

According to the circular, where practically possible and based on operational requirements, the department can also make changes to the educator's role or work environment by allowing them to work from home or allowing them to self-isolate in the workplace.

It states: "After considering the educators' reasons for opting not to vaccinate such as medical, religious, constitutional, cultural or comorbidity, the employer reserves the rights to deal with such educators in terms of either operational requirements or incapacity procedures."

Cynthia Barnes, general secretary of the National Teachers' Union, slammed the department's move to force teachers who choose not to vaccinate to produce a detailed medical report.

"This is very wrong because even the president of the country said that the vaccinations are voluntary. We are living in a democratic country."

Said Barnes: "The department is contradicting itself by saying vaccinating is not compulsory and at the same time forcing teachers to go for it."


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