Johannesburg – The Department of Basic Education has given Covid-19-positive matric pupils a lifeline by allowing them to sit for their matric exams.
But teachers unions say while this might work for pupils, it could spell a death sentence for teachers, especially those with comorbidities.
On Wednesday night, a few hours before the start of the exams, minister Angie Motshekga reversed the decision to not allow Covid-19-infected pupils to write exams after consultation with the Health Department and parents.
In an earlier decision, Covid-19-positive pupils had to wait until next June to sit their exams. Candidates sat for their first exam, English, yesterday.
In her Wednesday night statement, Motshekga said candidates would be allowed to write, but “in a different venue and under secure conditions that are in compliance with the examination regulations”.
“We welcome the intervention by the Department of Health given that a pupil who tests positive becomes the responsibility of the Department of Health and no longer an education issue.
“The initial protocol of the Department of Basic Education was widely consulted and endorsed by the Department of Health, but this change in the protocol is very helpful because it will give all pupils an opportunity to write their examinations,” said Motshekga.
National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of SA executive director Basil Manuel said they were taken aback by the decision, and viewed any instruction that teachers come in direct contact with sick pupils as “unlawful and unreasonable”.
Manuel said: “We acknowledge the right of all pupils to sit for an examination, but we will not have the health and safety of our members compromised.”
Sadtu’s Mugwena Maluleke said the decision to allow sick pupils to write went against the Department of Health’s Covid-19 protocols.