School is over but this will be the second consecutive summer of simmering discontent for civic school teachers. As the city grapples with the second wave of Covid-19 and the fear of a lurking third wave, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s ward offices have restricted all their teachers from leaving town during summer vacation. This has left teachers agitated, as they fear they will be assigned pandemic duty in the city.
Even as summer break was announced for schools across the state from May 1, civic ward offices in Mumbai have directed the teachers of BMC schools to not go outstation/ native places but remain in Mumbai during this time as they might be asked to report for duty and assist in pandemic-related work.
Last year, at the end of April, the civic education department had issued a circular, asking deputy education officers across the city to ensure that schools were made ready to be converted as quarantine facilities. “If there is some issue concerning water, lights etc, they need to be fixed immediately. Staff from the school like teachers and principals could be appointed to supervise the facility,” the circular had said.
The BMC had asked its officers to ensure that all the teachers and principals of civic schools remained available to work in the city. Those who had left the city considering the summer vacation were asked to return to the city immediately and report to work.
“This year, the circular has been issued at the ward level and not by the education department, unlike last year. The idea is to get help from teachers in various pandemic-related works, such as assistance in the ward war rooms etc,” said Mahesh Palkar, BMC education officer.
With the number of Covid cases rising, the BMC has set up exhaustive ward war rooms. The staff requisitioned in these places are from various departments and they answer calls, help allot beds in hospitals and arrange for ambulances etc. This is a round-the-clock job and is always in need of more staff to work in shifts.
Last week, the BMC wards called in staff from the assessment and tax collection department and assigned them tasks such as food and ration distribution, as well as at ward war rooms.
“When there are elections, teachers are roped in for duty, when there is census, teachers are again roped in. Now it’s the pandemic and once again, teachers have been included. It is a national duty, hence we cannot refuse. However, we hope those with co-morbidities are exempted,” said a teacher from a civic school in Worli.