To rage or not to rage, that is the vaxxing question
Debate rages over whether (and how) matric rage festivals should happen after Ramaphosa’s plea
Two of the country’s most influential educational associations have called for the postponement or cancellation of the matric rage festivals amid concerns over the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron.
The calls were made by the National Alliance of Independent Schools Associations (Naisa) and the National Association of School Governing Bodies (Nasgb), which represents 9,000 public schools.
It follows President Cyril Ramaphosa’s appeal during Sunday night’s family meeting, for the matric rage parties “to be avoided or postponed”.
He said “every person should think twice before attending or organising such a gathering”.
“Last year many of our young people attended these matric rages and they were centres of mass infection.”
We want to strongly appeal to both independent and public schools to err on the side of caution and cancel such rage festivals and parties this year, while the country is under the looming threat of the Omicron variant.Mandla Mthembu, Naisa
Close to 100 Covid-19 infections were linked to last year’s Ballito Rage festivities, which was identified as a superspreader event.
Naisa chairperson Mandla Mthembu said while it could not dictate to private schools what they should or should not do, “we strongly recommend that the president’s call be heeded by all”.
“We take this view informed by the experience of last year’s Ballito festival that became a superspreader. Many matric students who attended ended up being quarantined.”
He said if pupils attending this year’s festivals became infected, they ran the risk of infecting their families.
“We want to strongly appeal to both independent and public schools to err on the side of caution and cancel such rage festivals and parties this year, while the country is under the looming threat of the Omicron variant.”
He also called on schools to encourage both teachers and pupils to vaccinate, so that the danger of infections can be minimised.
Matakanye Matakanya, Nasgb’s general secretary, who also endorsed Ramaphosa’s appeal to avoid or postpone the matric rage festivals, said pupil infections would increase if they attended these events.
Anthea Cereseto, national CEO of the Governing Body Foundation, said “as much as we regret to stop young people celebrating at the end of their schooling, we believe that the timing is not right [for the matric rage parties]”.
Let’s think of another way of celebrating the end of schooling.Anthea Cereseto, Governing Body Foundation
“Even if they had vaccinations, it’s still a risk to other people and we do not want to engage in any activity that increases our risk.”
Cereseto said they supported Ramaphosa’s reservations about the matric rage parties and she urged parents and pupils to have a discussion at home about it.
“Let’s think of another way of celebrating the end of schooling,” she said.
Jaco Deacon, CEO of the Federation of Governing Bodies of SA Schools, said: “If learners attend, they must be vaccinated and follow the protocols. They must think not only about themselves but their loved ones when they make those decisions.”
Wits University vaccinology professor Shabir Madhi said it was naive to believe that the rage festivals would not result in an increase in infections.
“We need to do as much as possible to try to prevent superspreader events but at the same time we need to start learning to live with the virus. I really don’t have strong views either way on whether the rage parties should go ahead or not.”
We need to do as much as possible to try to prevent superspreader events but at the same time we need to start learning to live with the virus.Wits professor Shabir Madhi
Darren Sandras from marketing and communications agency One-eyed Jack said there would be a “strictly no vaccine, no entry policy” at the Ballito rage festival.
“All attendees and staff must be vaccinated and show digital proof of vaccination, which will be verified before entry.”
He said there would be rapid antigen tests during the festival for guests and staff.
Ronen Klugman, festival director for Plett Rage, said they had sold only 890 tickets after they announced six months ago that those attending must be vaccinated.
“We were one of the first to make vaccination mandatory for our event and it was disastrous. Our clientele said: ‘No we don’t support it, we’re not coming’. We said the vaccine is mandatory. No one told us to do that.”
Klugman said that before partygoers received their tickets for the event, they would be tested.
“Everyone, including the artists and the taxi drivers picking up the ragers, will be tested. We are planning to test between three to five times during the five days. I don’t know what else we can do as a private company.”