The Department of Basic Education in South Africa and teacher unions have launched a COVID-19 vaccination programme with the support and participation of Education International affiliates.
South Africa has been severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the virus has struck in waves with infections increasing in the last three weeks. Many teachers and other education workers have been victims of the virus. Although well over two million doses of the vaccines have been administered, it represents a small percentage of the doses needed to vaccinate the protect the population.
In parallel with the health crisis, and as is the case in many countries around the world, a proliferation of fake news and misinformation has marred the efforts of health authorities to combat the virus.
The National Professional Teachers’ Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA), the National Teachers' Union (NATU), the Professional Educators Union (PEU), and the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (SADTU), the Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU), are working together to share reliable information and support the vaccine rollout for educators.
SADTU Secretary General and Education International Vice-President, Mugwena Maluleke stressed the importance of prioritising teachers for vaccination efforts as they are on the frontlines and have been first responders since the pandemic began.
SADTU has been providing daily updates and reliable information to combat “fake news” by SMS to its members on the pandemic and challenges to educators. That network, along with videos and other means of communication is being used to disseminate vaccination information.
In October 2020, South Africa and India proposed to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights to enable additional production of badly needed vaccines in developing countries. Education International supports waiver, but opposition remains from many manufacturing nations. Although some of the richest nations have pledged to make more vaccines available internationally, commitments remain far short of meeting needs.
Education International and UNESCO have called for teachers and education support personnel to be prioritised for vaccinations, as so many are risking their health and their lives, working without the necessary sanitary protocols in place.