KZN education MEC intervenes after police clash with pupils over Covid-19 testing

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for education Kwazi Mshengu visits Nqabakazulu High School in KwaMashu.
KwaZulu-Natal MEC for education Kwazi Mshengu visits Nqabakazulu High School in KwaMashu.
Image: Thuli Dlamini

A stand-off between pupils and teachers which has led to three days of no learning at a school in KwaMashu, Durban, has finally come to an end.

Matric pupils at Nqabakazulu High School boycotted classes on Monday demanding that they and all teachers be tested for Covid-19 after they were informed that a teacher was positive.

The stand-off led to clashes with police after pupils locked the school gates, allegedly stopping an education department official from leaving.

However, a visit by KwaZulu-Natal MEC for education Kwazi Mshengu on Wednesday seems to have diffused the tensions.

“The source of the conflict was a misunderstanding between learners and teachers on what was the process to follow after a positive Covid-19 case.

“Pupils believe all students and teachers must be tested and show their results to prove they are negative before entering the school, but that is not what the department of health says,” Mshengu said, after a meeting with student representatives and teachers. 

According to guidelines provided by the department of basic education, only pupils who have been exposed to a confirmed case of Covid-19 may not attend school, while fellow pupils who are not contacts of a confirmed case should continue attending school.

However Mshengu said because the department of education has lost a lot of time due to the virus, a decision was taken that all close contacts be tested immediately and not quarantined for 14 days before they are tested.

“Pupils will now go back to class. Those who have been in close contact with the positive teacher will be put in a different isolation room. The department of health will come and conduct tests. The school has been decontaminated, pupils can go back to class,” Mshengu said. 

Pupils at Nqabakazulu High School in KwaMashu agreed to go back to classes after a three-day boycott.
Pupils at Nqabakazulu High School in KwaMashu agreed to go back to classes after a three-day boycott.
Image: Thuli Dlamini

He attributed the three days it took to identify pupils and teachers who require testing to disruptions that had taken place at the school and announced that there will be an investigation into pupil allegations that they were assaulted and shot at with rubber bullets by the police.

Those who had come into contact with the Covid-19 positive teacher were asked to move to a separate classroom to await testing while the rest of the pupils went back to class.

On Sunday, KZN premier Sihle Zikalala announced that the reported number of Covid-19 cases in the province's schools increased last week to 187, of which 139 are teachers and 37 are pupils.


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