Publication:

Hastings Leader - 2021-11-24

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Unvaxxed teacher barred from work feels ‘depleted’

NEWS

Gianina Schwanecke

AHastings-based early childhood teacher who has been barred from the job for refusing to get a Covid-19 vaccination says she feels “completely depleted”. However, others in the region say they are relieved education centres and schools are now a step closer to protecting students against the virus. Melody Ferguson was one of those who took to Hastings streets on Tuesday after the Government’s education vaccine mandate came into effect. Frontline teachers had to have had their first dose by November 15. The deadline for the second dose is January 1. Ferguson said it was contradictory that she could drop her child off at a centre as a parent, but could not work as an unvaccinated staff member. “I’ve now lost my job. I feel completely depleted.” It was “crazy” people would be unable to work. “This country is going to fall apart.” While Ferguson had “no idea” what came next, she felt she was doing the right thing by protesting. She’s one of several early childhood teachers who have left the industry in the region. Official figures on education staff losses had yet to be collated yesterday. National president of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation and Hastings Intermediate principal Perry Rush told Hawke’s Bay Today on Monday he was still unclear what the impact would be on Hawke’s Bay schools. Rush said most small schools had one to two ancillary or teaching staff who were unwilling to be vaccinated and larger schools might have a few more but added schools had been planning for such an eventuality. Hastings Youth Council chairman Keelan Hesterman, in his capacity as a Karamu High School student, said the health of those being educated had to be “paramount”. “We know vaccines work at slowing or stopping the spread of Covid-19, and we also know schools can be breeding grounds for Covid-19. “If an unvaccinated teacher brought Covid-19 to school, especially with lots of under12s who can’t be vaccinated at this stage, then it could easily spiral out of control; not to mention that the teacher is at risk of not being able to work for an extended period of time if they got sick with Covid-19. “Young people just want to feel safe at school, and knowing their teachers are vaccinated against Covid-19 plays a big part of that.”

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