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In an accessible letter, the arch of Aloe High school, Envil Wertheim, outlines why he believes that actuality aback at academy during a communicable is not working. 

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Learners aback at schools is not working. My name is Envil Wertheim and I am the arch of Aloe High School, a academy in Mitchells Plain.

We are advised to be a big academy as we accept in balance of 1 000 learners. 

Wednesday was 1 July, absolutely a ages aback we accustomed aback our matrics.

Remember the abortion of 1 and 8 June and how the Western Cape was “ready”? And above-mentioned to that how they were “ready” to acceptable aback principals and abutment staff, afresh SMTs and afterwards absolute staffs.

The accuracy is, we were never ready; we are still not accessible as we adapt to appearance in the abutting grades abutting week.

Let me explain why it is that I am of this opinion: Late Wednesday afternoon, one of my teachers, who has been in abreast because she had taken a analysis (she had presented with symptoms), abreast me that she is Covid-19 positive. This is the third absolute case amid my educators in as abounding weeks. We accept a Covid-19 file: Guidelines A-E, further guidelines F-G and one or two others.

Not abominably written, one could alike say, well-thought-out.

But here’s the affair – these guidelines are abstract scenarios, accounting far abroad from the coalface of this drama, abaft desks in costly offices.


This is what absolutely happens at the coalface that we, as teachers, accept to accord with and principals have to manage: I accept 31 educators.

From aftermost anniversary Wednesday until this anniversary Wednesday, I had an boilerplate of 11 agents absent every day – two are ill (Covid-19 unrelated), two were Covid-19 absolute and three are on comorbidity concession, where they are declared to work from home.

The others were in capricious phases of self-isolation, either because they had been in abutting acquaintance with a Covid-19 absolute being or they, themselves, are isolating because they had gone for tests.

Now, as the manager, one is placed in the unenviable position of aggravating to still someone’s all-overs while aggravating to altercate them that what they had absolutely accomplished was “casual” acquaintance as against to “close” contact. This you do while you accept this abiding acrimonious articulation in the aback of your arch saying, “what if?”.

Still added at the aback of my head, I accept addition acrimonious articulation which drowns out the aboriginal one, and that articulation is saying, “You can’t lose too abounding agents because a matric class has to be covered”.

The teacher, who I approved to convince, is still afraid and phones the hotline, which is manned by a fourth-year medical student, who errs on the ancillary of absorption and, appropriately so, tells the drillmaster to self-isolate.

I can’t altercate with that, but there goes addition teacher, and this is how you access at 11 agents absent every day.

Soon my matric English administration is decimated and I’m bottomward to “subbing” the “sub”.

I can’t bandy a Grade 10 English abecedary into the affray because she has never read Life of Pi, the English atypical the matrics are studying.

So there goes the abstraction that, at this time, all agents should be complex in teaching the matrics; both my matric history agents are in isolation.

What now?

I’m abiding that some commune official will accommodate me with some abstract band-aid to my problem… But, practically, it doesn’t work.

Covid-19 spike 

Is it accompaniment that, with the acknowledgment of learners, I am aback accepting a fasten in Covid-19 absolute cases amid my educators?

Let’s allege about attendance: I accept 223 matriculants. 

My boilerplate appearance has been at 58%, which is about 130 learners.

The day afterwards learners got wind that two of the educators had activated positive, 24 showed up. On Thursday, we were up to 110 again, but what do you anticipate is activity to appear back learners find out that addition one of my educators has activated positive? They are not stupid.

They can see back agents are absent. What should I do? Keep it quiet. Hush-hush? And how do I acknowledge to matric learners back they say: “Sir, you appetite us to appear to school, but your agents are afraid to be here?”

And assumption who is activity to be abhorrent at the end of the year back our matric after-effects are poor?

Meanwhile, on the added side of the tracks, at these flush schools, the ones with the tennis courts and pond pools, it is business as usual.

Attendance is at 90%, if not 100%. Why is that, do you think? Could the acumen possibly be activate in the actuality that, for the aforementioned cardinal of learners, you accept bifold my agents because you can allow it and so can abate agents absence better?

Or could it be that your learners are about alone at academy by their affluent parents in their affluence sedans and don’t accept to argue with the dangers of accessible transport, which my learners are apparent to?

Or could it be that during Level 5 and 4 of the lockdown your learners and their families could absolutely crouch bottomward in their ample homes, in their abounding suburbs, and practice social distancing the way it was meant to be accomplished – because the grocery cupboards and the abysmal freezer was abounding up – while my learners could not do this because they alive in their shacks and busted homes area amusing break is but a aqueduct dream?

But, at the end of this year, you will be captivated up as “institutions of excellence”, while abundance will be an “underperforming” school.


Debbie Schafer, the abbot for apprenticeship in the province, will abolish me as a “social media attention-seeker”.

By way of a response, let me say this: If that is how you ambition to characterization me, by all agency do that. And, conceivably yes, I do seek attention.

I seek to accompany absorption to this: Learners abiding to academy is not working!

Let me additionally say this, ma’am: You cannot bend the bazaar on the media anecdotal (via your columnist releases through boilerplate media) and afresh cry abhorrent back others use amusing media to adverse what you bear to be actuality and truth. We do not accept the ascendancy that your appointment and appellation allow you and, with it, the accessible access to print and audio–visual media. 

Because you disregard us and our choir so readily, we have to resort to this anatomy of media back we ambition to allege accuracy to power. You are power, afterwards all, ma’am – and this is me attempting to allege accuracy to you.

I am currently account Brene Brown’s Cartel to Lead, a allowance from my manager. This is what she says: “It is not the analyzer who counts; not the man who credibility out how the able man stumbles or the abettor of accomplishments could accept done them better. The acclaim belongs to the man who is absolutely in the arena…”

So ma’am, stop criticising these academy leaders and agents who cartel to disagree with you. We are in the “arena”; we accord with this, while you sit in your costly office, autograph policies.

By all accounts, the MEC and the HOD are good, accomplished folk. I accept additionally listened to them abundant times to apperceive that they are awful able people. But here’s the thing: They do not get it.

They cannot begin, no amount how adamantine they try, to accept the difficulties and deluge of challenges absorbed to teaching in and managing wholly under-resourced schools.

They cannot hope to understand because all their lives they’ve accomplished privilege… grew up privileged, abounding advantaged schools. And now still alive privileged, adequate lives. It is not their fault. It is…what it is.

The problem, though, is: These people are action makers and they accomplish action for our schools, whose abecedarian absoluteness they do not understand; whose parents’ absoluteness they do not understand; whose attempt and abjection they can never achievement to understand.

– Envil Wertheim, is the arch of Aloe High school.

** This accessible letter has been shortened. 

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