Ethembeni Senior Secondary School in Burgersdorp has 500 learners quarantined after 98 learners tested positive for Covid-19. The coronavirus outbreak at the school was caused mainly by learners gathering outside classrooms without wearing their masks and not practising social distancing. This will negatively impact grade 12 learners who are currently sitting for their trial examination.
Learners at the school had an irresponsible behaviour of taking off their masks when outside the classroom, confirmed the Eastern Cape Education spokesperson Mali Mtima.
She said, “In this case, two pupils went to test for Covid-19 but failed to inform the school. During the break, they would mingle with other learners which is how the virus was spread. As a district, we have recruited teacher assistants who will make sure that Covid-19 regulations are adhered to.”
An anonymous teacher said that the outbreak will negatively affect grade 12 learners who are writing their exam.
A grade 12 learner who also left home to self-isolate at a special quarantine site said that she hoped they will be given a chance to write their trial examination.
The grade 12 learner said, “I did not have any symptoms even when I was tested at school on Wednesday last week, I didn’t think much of it. However, my results came back positive on Friday and I was shocked and worried about my exams.”
Another 18-year-old grade 12 learner at the school, speaking to Sowetan she said, “the virus was spread faster because we only wear masks when we are inside the classroom and a lot of pupils do not observe social distancing.”
A 17-year-old grade 10 pupil said: “We were told there were two grade 10 pupils who tested positive for Covid-19 and we also had to test. I was worried about my grandmother at home but luckily my results came back negative.”
Eastern Cape education MEC Fundle Gade said a multi-departmental team consisting of the local municipality, and departments of health, public works and education had been established to manage the spread of the outbreak.
“The team had advised the department to allow grade 12 learners to write their exams since they are medically fit. However they will be isolated in Aliwal North where invigilators have been advised to put on personal protective equipment and scripts will be monitored for a specified period before being marked,” he said.
Gade said there were also self-isolating sites in Steynsburg for the grade 12 pupils who tested negative as they could be in the incubation phase.
Joe Gqabi municipal spokesperson Mandla Gceya said the mass outbreak at Ethembeni Secondary School has caused consequences for Burgersdorp and surrounding areas as the learners were in contact with their families and friends, which calls for a large number of primary contacts to be identified and tracked.
At the meantime, the department of basic education has announced that teachers who were given permission to work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic should report for duty from Monday.