Photo used for indicative purpose only. Source: Internet

Ritanjali Hastir/Shimla

June 10, 2020

All those ‘Smart classrooms’, IT labs, and other infrastructure created by both private as well government schools are lying redundant in wake COVID-19. Simply because those to utilize these tools i.e teachers are being not called to work.
Now that most state/center government offices have been opened, teachers still are kept back home, for the simple logic that since students are not being called, therefore teachers are also not required to work.
But it is not completely true, as teachers continue working from home. Since mid-March, when all the educational institutes along with everything else stood still to control the spread of COVID -19, teachers and schools are doing their best to provide students E-learning.
Agreed that teaching the noblest profession of all; yet at the end of the day, it is a profession, like any other and they too should be asked to report to their offices (School) and be given a chance to live a normal life by working during office hours only.
Throughout three and a half months the teachers seem to be the most affected ones as many claims to have been facing time management challenges. In the new setup, most are finding themselves emailing or messaging management/parents even as late as 8 pm in the night, compared to normal working days which used to start at 7.30 am till around 2 pm. Taking into account, it will not be wrong to say that these demands are encroaching more than ever on personal time, contributing to burnout and stress.
Their health has been put at stake due to work from home and endless online classes. Excessive screen time is creating vision issues like strained, dry eyes, blurred vision, and headaches along with chronic neck and back pain. Studies link heavy computer and smartphone use thus increasing sleeping issues and bring down efficiency.
Speaking to HimachalScape one of the Principals of the Private School shared, “I feel sorry for my staff at times when I see them under stress all the time. With Unlock 1.0, the state government ordered a hundred percent of staff presences in offices and asked them to report back to their respective works with precautionary measures. With such measures, even teachers can be asked to report to schools on alternative days and conduct online classes from there during fixed working hours like before.” Average school if has a staff of 23 people then it also will have 20 rooms available, which may be enough to maintain social distance,” added the Principal.
“This will not only allow teachers to take a break from small home available screens but will also be handy to make teachers work in the old routine, thus providing them quality time, to spend at home, she noted. We need to understand that a teacher’s stress can be passed on to the students. Many teachers will be more than happy to check the physical notebooks of students if their parents drop them and take it back from school. We just hope that government issues order as private schools do not have much say in current times “, she concluded.
Whereas Dr. Nitin Vyas, Assistant Professor, HPU shared, “There warmth of one on one interaction is missing and these online classes are not hitting the mark. The ambiance at home and classroom are stark apart and because of which there is certainly a decline in the zeal to teach. The power of the physical classroom is far much greater for a teacher to teach than a cushy sofa at home.”
On one hand, we have dedicated teachers like the above two and on the other, we have a few others who are relishing free movement in the state as an opportunity to go on a vacation to other places or visit relatives/friends in other districts. One cannot deny the fact that many teachers had left stations and moved to different places even before Unlock 1.0 as classes were being conducted online; despite Government orders clearly stating that one cannot leave their work station during the time.
Amarjeet Singh, Director of Higher Education informed, “We are looking forward to issuing new orders for teachers in July. Currently, no online classes are being conducted by our staff and if we feel that their presence in the school can be more productive and in the interest of both students as well as teachers’ mental health, we will call them back. We have planned to provide teachers with homework wherein they will be asked to prepare worksheets and workbooks so that if children are not able to attend classes even after the schools open, studies can pick pace, he added.
As far as the teachers leaving the station is concerned he said: “Some teachers certainly have left but we have not received any formal complaint about it so we cannot take action but I will definitely say that one should follow the Government directions and if a complaint is received, one will be taken to task without any delay.”
Dr. Suresh Kumar Soni, Chairman Himachal Pradesh Board of School Education speaking his mind said, “Personally I recommend that teachers should be asked to visit schools physically and conduct classes as per the State or Center government directives even if it is after August 15, as one cannot have things lockdown forever. Many times one cannot understand what is being taught through these online classes. Need for accountability is there and just because teachers have been not called to work, leaving work station shall not be tolerated,” he noted.
Risking lives of children is definitely out of question but in any school, the average teaching staff will not exceed more than 50 and considering teaching as a profession like any other, there could be possibly no harm in calling them on alternative days to physical schools and utilize the smart classrooms, computer labs and other facilities that make school important for a child to learn and grow.
This will not only reduce the burden from teachers but will also ease the life of students who are bombarded with several videos and homework of almost every subject daily. Learning might get slow but could prove more effective and efficient.

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