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State Admits Tertiary Institutions Grappling With COVID-19 Rights

Many South African public higher learning institutions are reportedly planning to join the University of Johannesburg and Stellenbosch University who are allegedly implementing compulsory vaccination mandatory.

Although the mandatory vaccination plan has not been officially announced by all the universities, already students and lectures unions are claiming that such actions would be a serious violation of human rights.

South Africa Parastatal and Tertiary Institutions Union (Saptu) general-secretary advocate Ben Van der Walt said his organization is demanding to be included in policy discussions over mandatory vaccinations.

“The Bill of Rights in the South African Constitution states that everyone has the right to bodily and psychological integrity – which includes the right to security in and control over their body.

Therefore, Saptu demands to be included in any formulation of policies regarding mandatory vaccinations, as its primary purpose is to protect job security,”

 “But Saptu will never force a policy which goes against the Bill of Rights – and in which we had no input before its implementation – onto our members. On the contrary,

if we are involved with discussions over these policies, we can ensure that we protect the rights of our members, whether they prefer to be vaccinated or not.” said Van der Walt.

While addressing the media about the Social impact study on COVID-19, the Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande acknowledged that SA colleges and universities are grappling with some challenges. 

On the other hand, the Congress of South African Students Association (COSAS) has admitted that it might be difficult to ensure a fair way to protect the right to safety for those while ensuring the rights of those who don’t want to get vaccinated does hold against them.

Despite accepting that, the student’s representative organizations couldn’t provide an alternative solution to the problem but vowed to fight against any institutions that infringe on students human rights

Earlier this month, Minister Nzimande, institutions of higher learning are in a much better position to deal with Covid 19 challenges and human rights issues ‘much better than we did during the first year and the first and second waves of the pandemic.’

‘’I have released these comprehensive COVID-19 PSET Guidelines as early as April 2020, which were followed by specific protocols, checklists, and interventions.

These interventions were rolled out in all our universities, TVET and CET Colleges, including Private Higher Education Institutions and Skills-Based Centres. 

The interventions also tracked the pandemic and aligned with overarching national policies, preparing the PSET sector for a phased re-opening of campuses and contact learning…

In pursuit of this goal, all COVID protocols, guidelines and training materials were updated in line with the evolving scientific advancements, which enabled us to retrain management and frontline teams ahead of the re-opening of institutions for the 2021 academic year.”

Stories and debates about issues like these where public institutions employees and beneficiaries are compelled to take Covid 19 tests are very important to be made public. Although they aren’t always pleasant or easier to be discussed, such stories and debates will go a long way in teaching society about the pandemic and most important underlying human rights matters that need to be addressed.

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