– Sukanya Nandy
Recently, the Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan declared that vaccination will be provided to front line health workers in the first stage, police personnel and sanitation workers in the second stage, those above 50 years of age in the third, and those with comorbidities in the fourth stage.
Bhushan had also asked states to provide database of people in these four categories to create a vaccination roadmap. But eyebrows raised when teachers were not included in the list. With the Unlock 5.0 guidelines allowing schools to reopen for classes 9 through 12, teachers would be exposed to more risks of infection and therefore, should be provided vaccination on a priority basis. EducationWorld speaks with experts to know their opinion on the same.
Swati Popat Vats, president of the Early Childhood Association (ECA) and president of the Association for Primary Education and Research (APER) says, “We need to understand that when we are prioritising, who all should get the vaccine first. It is a great step that medical professionals, sanitary workers, police personnel, security guards are on the front line but the future of a country is also decided based on the education its children receive. Our children’s education has suffered during the pandemic. If we want to bring it back on track again, schools will open soon. In many states, schools have started reopening as well. In this scenario, it is also important for us to understand that teachers can become susceptible because children in large numbers are there in a class. Meanwhile, children become susceptible if teachers who come by public transport suffers from any signs of the virus. Hence, I think it’s imperative that we hold teachers on our priority list. If they are given the vaccine, we will be able to safeguard our education system and schools and colleges will open faster and will help in developing our human resources skill, which is actually one of our treasures in India.”
“It also depends on the kind of policy we have for our teachers. In this country, teachers are not given any priority. So, it’s not a surprise that teachers are not included in the frontline,” says Rakhee Chhabria, founder, TeachersHelpTeachers.
She adds, “First, teachers should be considered important in the education system. As we bear the load of the education system, and the person that the child comes in touch with, for educational purposes, after their family, is the teacher. Hence, if we are keen to reopen schools and get a grounding in our education system, teachers should be included in the frontline list for receiving vaccines. Any changes that the government wishes to see in the education system, then first they need to work on the educators. If we are looking to open schools post-December, then teachers also should be included.”
On a similar note, Dr Kannan Gireesh, psychiatrist, psychotherapist and founder, Live Life Education points out that teachers do not come under the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA). He says, “Teachers above 50 years will get the vaccination. Teachers below 50 years will not get the vaccine immediately as the priority will always go from essential service downwards. Essential service workers include people from the health care fraternity, army, police, emergency active workers, etc.”
Gireesh adds, “Teachers below 50 years do not need vaccination right now unless they have comorbidities. People with comorbidities are already included in the fourth stage. Although, teachers who are spouses of frontline warriors should be given priority and provided vaccination.”
He adds that schools are reopening right now only for classes 9 to 12. Classes below 9 will probably not open before next year June or July as the vaccine will not be available before March. “By April or May, vaccine is likely to be available on a large scale and then we will know about the consequences of the vaccine following which we will know if a vaccine is required for everyone. I think that would be a better way of structuring the situation.”National, News