Government teachers in Karnataka left to their fate in Corona situation

Government teachers in Karnataka left to their fate in Corona situation
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Government teachers in Karnataka left to their fate in Corona situation

Highlights

  • Some log in, some slog out
  • Teachers Face Digital Divide

Highlights:

The inequity and gross digital divide between corporate and government schools teachers is glaring in Karnataka, more so in Bengaluru - the country's tech hub

♦ Corporate teachers work from the safe confines of their homes, while their poor cousins in government schools visit the homes of school children in slums risking their own lives

♦ Leave sanitizers and soaps, most slums lack adequate water faclities where washing hands more than once is a luxury

♦ For government school children, physical distancing is all but Greek and Latin

♦ The government had suspended all classes in private schools to protect children from Covid-19

♦ Govt teachers take classes under open sky or nearby community halls even as the coronavirus crisis presents a serious threat to them

Bengaluru: They are not the frontline workers in the line of COVID-duty like the medical doctors, nurses, paramedic staff police personnel or even the sanitation workers. Much like the 'frontline workers', the coronavirus crisis presents a serious dilemma for them too. They are in the forefront to shape the future generation, but sadly the government school teachers are not recognised as 'frontline warriors'.

The digital-divide in India's own 'Silicon Valley' has been thoroughly exposed. While the school teachers in the corporate schools in elite urban pockets have embraced digital mode of teaching, the government school teachers in the city are being put at grave risk as they have been asked to visit houses of the school children to teach in a city known for its tech prowess.

The inequity is glaring and at once appalling. While teachers in private schools practise self-isolation and social distancing by working from home, the government schools teachers are made to teach under the open sky or nearby community halls at a time healthcare expert insist that the only way to control the rapidly spreading Covid-19 is to practise physical distancing and limit human-to-human interactions.

The Yeddyurappa government had suspended all classes in private schools to protect children from Covid-19, while teachers and principals of the government schools, however, were asked to work.

With an alarming rise in Covid-19 cases in the city, fear and anxiety are gripping the government teachers, who have been reporting to work regularly and taking the classes at the houses of the students from the last week of July.

While there is a risk of transmission, they are also facing an additional financial burden of transportation. Many teachers commute from far off places and spend at least three times the normal costs due to the lack of public transport. Since public transport is limited, many government teachers commute in autos which drills a hole in their shoe-string budgets.

While teachers in corporate schools have the luxury to take online classes from the safe confines of their homes, the government school teachers reported back to work despite transportation hurdles and fear of contracting the deadly virus.

Take Gowriamma, for instance, a government school teacher. Her normal day begins at the crack of the dawn. She wakes up at 6 am, reaches her school by 9 am where she marks her attendance and heads to the homes of government school children.

Gowriamma is among the thousands of teachers employed in over 4,4615 primary schools and 5,240 government high schools across the state. More than 40 lakh students are enrolled with the state government schools across the state. Hundreds of teachers take classes under open sky or nearby community halls even as the coronavirus crisis presents a serious threat to them.

The government teachers have to visit tiny and overcrowded slums where physical distancing is all but Latin and Greek. In the slum pockets of Bengaluru, many don't have water to drink, much less wash their hands regularly.

Hand sanitizers and soaps? That's the privilege of the corporate schools. The government teachers visit the homes of school children who live in sub-human conditions in cramped quarters. One of the teachers, Shilpi H, travels 40 kilometres from Bengaluru to Hoskote to take classes. The government teachers visit the slums of Narulhalli, Ambedkarnagar and HSR layout.

The state government had put its Rs 30 crore proposal to start two TV channels for the students of the government school students in the back burner. Why spend Rs 30 crore? The government teachers may well take teaching to the doorsteps of the students and save money. The government's rethink on starting TV channels for government school children drew sharp criticism from the government teachers who say that in the time of the pandemic their lives are being put at stake.

Who cares?

Meanwhile, the government school teachers continue visiting homes of school children by boarding the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) buses. The BMTC had resumed buses with skeletal services. It is another matter that the physical distancing norms are grossly violated.

"We are being asked to mark our attendance in the school. From there, we visit the houses of the school children to take assign homework. Some of us board BMTC buses where hardly any physical distancing is maintained. There is no logic in us going to schools as no sessions are recorded.

It is difficult to expect the students to maintain physical distancing norm. A few students will sit in groups and we take classes. Next day we have to check their homework as well. If we do not comply we will be suspended," fears Gowriamma, a primary government teacher said.

While the big debate over the digital divide between students of private schools and government schools continues, the Karnataka government remains silent over the issue for months during the lockdown till the issue was highlighted by social activists.

The government had started Vidyagama scheme. Under this if a child has all the access the teacher will take classes online and if not the teachers will have to go to their houses to take the classes. The teachers are now going to the houses of the students so that they are not deprived of education," commissioner of the department of public instruction, Dr K G Jagadish told The Hans India.

However, Naeem Akhtar (name changed) employed with a government school in Jalahalli debugged the government's claim."We have not taken a single online class. On the contrary, we are being warned that if we do not visit the houses of school children we will be suspended. It is a huge risk for us to take classes on the street. The spike in the number of Covid-19 cases in Bengaluru is a cause of worry for all of us. We cannot afford cabs to commute."

The government teachers rued that during the lockdown when the corporate schools were closed and their teachers were given the work from home option, their poor cousins (read government school teachers) were going to schools to mark attendance and stare at the empty classrooms.

Last month, the teachers were tasked to evaluate the Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) answer scripts. In an unfair move, the government had asked the government schools teachers to report to the evaluation centres when the entire city was under lockdown.

The government school teachers were even warned that if they fail to report to the evaluation centres, they would give Covid-19 duty. The government school teachers were earlier asked to distribute ration kits.

The government school teachers were also employed in Covid-19 related surveys, including tracing those with tuberculosis, and they obliged. "How fair is it to send the government school teachers to trace positive cases that too without proper protection is a question that the Yediurappa government has to answer. Meanwhile, the government teachers continue to visit homes of school children, rain, shine or Covid-19.

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