The Steering Committee of the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council (KZNCC) COVID-19 CHURCHES RESPONSE has carefully considered the proposal to re-open schools in KZN this month. We are aware that the opening of schools will be done in carefully worked out phases, which will give appropriate attention to the protection and safety of all teaching, office and support staff, and especially the children.
With the parents, we express our serious concern over the measures put in place to evaluate and monitor the control of risk to all engaged in the school environment. We are particularly concerned about the delay in supplying Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as masks and hand sanitizers to schools. We are also concerned that most of the schools in rural areas do not even have running water to use for washing hands as required by the COVID-19 safety protocols.
It is not good news that some schools did not receive PPE material because they do not have safe storage. It will be tragic and unacceptable to lose lives in our education sector because of this factor. As Churches, where necessary, we are open to negotiate the use of local Church premises for safe storage of PPE and other materials.
We support the notion that those schools that are self-sufficient or have received all PPE and will be able to implement social distancing and thereby meet all safety COVID-19 regulations, be allowed to re-open.
We are conscious that since some children and teachers have to use kombis to get to school, this could be an avenue for COVID-19 transmission. So, we plead with kombi operators to comply with all the COVID-19 safety protocols. At the same time we ask commuters to report to the police kombi or public transport operators who do not comply with the COVID-19 guidelines.
We are informed that there are schools which do not have enough teachers because of COVID-19, or because the teachers have diabetes or other health conditions which put them at risk, and so are scared to report to schools where there are no PPEs. We urge the Department to deploy interim teachers so that the affected children receive the necessary urgent attention.
In cases where there is an infection in a family, we urge the family not to send the children to school for the recommended quarantine period.
Since we know that in some cases those who have tested positive have been blamed for catching the virus or even victimised for having it, we appeal to all who can to help us educate each other to adhere religiously to each and every rule and regulation that has been put in place to control the spread of COVID-19.
Lastly, we place the welfare of parents, teachers and children in the safe hands of Jesus whose wish was that the Little Children be allowed to come to him, but not before their time, or because of our negligence.
We will continue to offer pastoral care and counselling upon request, and we pray for Christ’s grace to be sufficient for the Department of Education and for all schools, and may God continue to support and bless the work of educators in support of the education system and the learners. May you be assured of our thoughts and prayers for you.
Yours in Christ
+Wilfrid Cardinal Napier OFM Bishop Nkosinathi Myaka
KZN Church Leaders’ Group Chairperson KZNCC Chairperson