Sikkim’s Education Dept’s back-to-school order provokes ire in the teaching community

Gangtok, August 31: The Education Department, Government of Sikkim on August 27 issued an order informing that all heads, teaching faculty, support staff, and other employees of Government schools, colleges, and educational institutions which included Ad-hoc teachers and Ad-hoc Assistant Professors will have to attend duty from September 1 mandatorily even if the educational institutions […] The post Sikkim’s Education Dept’s back-to-school order provokes ire in the teaching community appeared first on The Sikkim Chronicle - Sikkim News.

Sikkim’s Education Dept’s back-to-school order provokes ire in the teaching community

Gangtok, August 31: The Education Department, Government of Sikkim on August 27 issued an order informing that all heads, teaching faculty, support staff, and other employees of Government schools, colleges, and educational institutions which included Ad-hoc teachers and Ad-hoc Assistant Professors will have to attend duty from September 1 mandatorily even if the educational institutions do not reopen for students.

Teachers will have to engage in digital and offline moe of classes from their respective workplaces. This order widely received criticism from the general public and educators of Sikkim.

Sikkimese netizens say that the Department is taking an unnecessary risk on the lives of Government schools and colleges’ teaching and non-teaching staff; they believe that conducting classes in online mode has been going on from April and making them travel to their school is selfish and short-sighted when the same could be done from the safety of their homes.

Other complaints were that many staff and educators of Government institutions had returned home and might not be in their workplaces as institutions have been closed from March. The Department on the following day, dated August 28th released another circular addressing this complaint.

The circular said that the Department had issued instructions for teaching and non-teaching staff to not leave their stations. They have stated that ‘some are not attending to the duties assigned to them during the lockdown period.’

Further, the order says that the Education Department has ‘made several arrangements for continuity of learning through offline and online modes including home-schooling,’ and that due to the non-compliance in doing their duty by such teaching and non-teaching staff has warranted action against them by the Department, the action being- 10 days of Extra Ordinary Leave ie. Leave without Pay being awarded to ‘delinquent staff’ and the rest of the period of absence shall be considered leave due at their credit.

This circular was met with additional criticism from social media users, with many saying that orders like this demotivate the teacher who has been conducting online class since its inception with sincerity and that the Department makes notifications like the above without any information of the ground reality.

Other complaints being that the Department should first try to provide good connectivity in all corners of the state first for online classes to be conducted successfully and despite problems of connectivity and many students lacking the means to attend online classes, educators have been trying their best.

Sikkim Chronicle regarding the announcement from the Department for all Heads, Teaching faculty, support staff, and other employees of Government Schools, Colleges, and Educational institutions which included Ad-hoc teachers and Ad-hoc Assistant Professors having to report to their respective workplace from September 1, spoke to educators on what they think of this, the teacher who spoke to SC have requested anonymity.

A teacher at a government school in West Sikkim says that this decision is completely unnecessary when there won’t be any students at schools and colleges in the first place and that they have to teach through online mediums when they are doing the same from home- giving assignments, conducting tests and teaching online classes.

“Added to that is the risk of transmission when everyone is fearing for their lives, while we do understand that someday we will all have to accept this as the new normal and return to normalcy despite the situation but I don’t think this is the right time to be doing this given the constant daily rises in COVID-19 cases.

With teachers also having to travel from one district of the state to the other in order to report to their workplace and it’s not like all teaching and non-teaching have the luxury of owning a private vehicle resulting in the travelling in public transportation, therefore, increasing the risk of transmission as well as more positive cases in Sikkim. The Government could allow us more time for us to return to our workplace as we are not saying we don’t want to work right now, we are working despite the problems of bad connectivity and attendance issues just that it’s from the safety of our homes.”

Another teacher has said that despite educational institutions, not opening, their work has never paused from the beginning of the lockdown. He echoes the thoughts of the previous teacher and has requested the Department to rethink this decision and to rather implement it at a later time when the risk of infection is not as it is right now.

“Teaching and non-teaching staff do understand the Department’s concern but while it is not safe for schools reopening till there are no COVID-19 cases, the staff of schools would comply easily at a later time when the cases are not as high as they are right now,” he explains.

Another teacher says, “While teachers are facing many problems because not all students have the technology needed to attend online classes, students who do not have their own phones and often times use phones of parents are unable to attend classes because parents go to work leading students to miss out on these classes, but as educators, we have tried to be inclusive of all students and I have personally spoken and conducted the classes privately for such students.

We are doing all that we can for our students but for the Department to give unnecessary risk to us is unfair. Online classes conducted from home can never make up for the on-on-one teaching that we do normally, online classes cannot give the same attention we give to students but teachers are trying so what is the point of teachers having to report to schools and conducting classes from there, will we be better teachers there than as compared to from home?”

A lab-assistant from a government school says that while he understands non-teaching staff having to attend schools for sanitation and sterilization purposes, he doesn’t understand why the teaching staff are being harassed.

“When the government is not willing to risk the lives of students why aren’t we treated to the same standard? Furthermore, how is the government going to safeguard us against the virus, will be provided with individual travel arrangements to report to work and if we are infected due to the rash decision of the Government, how will they be accountable for us?” he has said.

The State Government on August 30 released the names of 23 best performing teachers for the conferment of Commendation Awards and State Awards to celebrate the relentless efforts of teachers for their commitment and dedication.

The general Sikkimese public and staff of Government schools and colleges to this have said that rather than awarding teachers for their work, the government should understand and sympathize with teachers and their struggles and shouldn’t make them mandatorily report back to schools and colleges. With many saying that this is an act of hypocrisy by the State government- on one hand forcing them to expose themselves to the risk of infection and on another commending them for their work.

Even though on August 29, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released a new set of guidelines for Unlock 4 to be followed by States/ UTs from September which dictates that ‘States/ UTs may permit up to 50 percent of teaching and non-teaching staff to be called to the schools at a time for online teaching/tele-counseling and related work outside of the Containment Zones from September 21, after which Standard Operating procedures (SOP) will be issued by MHA for the same.’

Except the State’s Education Department’s notification contradicts the Centre Government’s direction for only 50% of teaching and non-teaching staff. Sikkim Chronicle reached out to the Education Department’s Additional Chief Secretary, GP Uphadhaya to provide clarity on the situation, but he remained unresponsive.

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