New lesson: Teachers left vulnerable to Covid
The deaths being counted in the second surge of Covid-19 infections may not present the full picture. But in one segment of the population the figures could be close to reality — and these are staggering. Teachers in schools and universities have been left vulnerable to infection by the policies of Central and state governments. Head teachers of government-aided schools in West Bengal have said that the policy of distributing dry rations in place of midday meals to pupils is exposing them to the virus; a teacher has to go to school six days a month to make the food packets and be exposed further during distribution since many guardians do not wear masks. They have already lost 25 head teachers and many more assistant teachers in the process. The state education department needs to find an alternative method quickly. Fire-fighting is urgent and can be expected of the new government, but the system also indicates the policy all over India to engage schoolteachers in various tasks outside of schoolwork, such as election duty and census data collection. India is guilty of diminishing the dignity and importance of school teachers; Covid-19 has cruelly exposed the tragic outcome of this inversion of values. For example, it is claimed that around 700 teachers died while on panchayat poll duty in Uttar Pradesh. But even being forced to stay on campus or travel from homes outside the campus to take online classes from school or conduct admissions and discharge other professional duties have proved to be tragic for many teachers of the Kendriya and Navodaya Vidyalayas. The teachers’ request to postpone admissions has not yet been properly heard.
If there is not total deafness, there is little more than hollow sounds to be had from the relevant authorities. In response to appeals from university teachers for help to set up Covid care facilities on their campuses, the University Grants Commission has sent superior-sounding advice about Covid protocols with no mention of financial and medical help. How are teachers to set up Covid management systems by themselves? But the UGC and the Union education ministry cannot afford to be touched by the death and illness of teachers and other staff on university campuses. The government is now the teacher, demonstrating how Bharat should become atmanirbhar.