Why My Mother Is Being Forced To Attend School?

I’m writing this anonymously because I’m afraid my mother will face the repercussions. Should such fear be expected from the educational sector of the government? Is this normal?


Only days before the holy month would commence, weddings were being conducted, feasts held, markets flung open without social distancing, and officials at the airport, the ones conducting tests were maskless as they sat on the side, sipping tea from the nearby stall and munching on ‘baekirkhani’ with people who would go home to their lives and come in contact with hundreds of possible carriers.

Amid all this, students were being asked to stay home — perhaps, because of the social merit and capital of a child. And teachers were asked to attend as if this sacrifice is expected and uncompromisable through them – them being expendable members of the workforce. 

And to what end?

What do they need to be in schools for especially when the pandemic is raging and when the students are home? 

And while the world is still battling with the ideas of the effectiveness and safety of vaccines, and while reports and cases of complications, even death, after vaccination are being heard, the state board of education is making it mandatory for the teachers to get themselves vaccinated. 

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“Around 180 people have died following vaccination against Covid-19 in India as of March 29, according to excerpts of a presentation made to India’s top Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) committee,” the Indian Express mentioned in a report. “There have also been severe and serious adverse events (SAEs), but the government has not provided an update on it for nearly a month.”

In such times as these, when the state takes extra liberty in exercising power to ensure public safety, mandatory vaccinations are perhaps understandable. 

However, when the tourists are thronging the streets of Srinagar in unprecedented numbers, and while the masks cover more road surface area than they do orifices of the face, and while Covid cases are at an all-time high this year, is this the best time to make attendance mandatory? 

And what purpose does it serve? Is the government taking every other necessary step for making sure that Covid is contained and hence moving on to this supposed problem of teachers staying home? 

Representational Image / web archives

My mother works as a teacher in a government school. We’re a family of immunodeficient people who are always at a higher risk of diseases, and I’m sure Covid is no exception. 

I have an autoimmune disease which makes it difficult for me to cope with diseases. I’ve already lost count of the number of people in the family and extended family and families of friends who’ve died in the pandemic owing to the carelessness of the government and people around them. 

Friends of mine and families which are admitted to hospitals due to complications after being tested positive told me about how the state is running out of oxygen cylinders, medication, injections, and how the hospitals are thronging with scores of people who need support to recover or survive this deadly disease. 

Medication meant for critically ill patients is being withheld for higher prices and for those with contacts in the government. The system has broken. The health sector is shattered. In this scenario, is school attendance more important than the lives of our teachers?

Does the government understand that it is time to stop theatrics like night curfew and focus on real measures like public distancing, making sure to penalise those who don’t wear masks, procure some ventilators, and maybe fix the roads which break an ambulance into pieces on the way to the Covid hospital, instead of making it mandatory for teachers to attend school? 

Representational Image / web archives

I spoke to a number of government school teachers in different districts of Jammu and Kashmir and almost all of them expressed concerns about being ‘forced’ to vaccinate despite the risk associated with it. When asked how they felt about it, more than one person used the word ‘scared’. 

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These teachers are being told that attendance is mandatory and if they do not get the vaccination done, they will not be allowed to attend school – implying that they will be forced to stay absent without leave and salary – resulting in possible suspension or worse. Some have been threatened with salary cuts as well. 

There is this dehumanising infantilization that the teachers are constantly subjected to which goes against the very tenets of the right to life and self-determination. 

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There are concerns in people’s minds regarding the safety of vaccines. And they aren’t completely unfounded. 

“A group of 29 doctors, researchers, and healthcare professionals have written to India’s health minister and those on the committee for the Covid-19 vaccines expressing their worry over the lack of data on adverse events after immunisation (AEFIs) and deaths related to the vaccine,” the Quartz India reported.

Even if they were completely unfounded, people have the right to not agree to get vaccinated until they feel confident about it in their mind.

The teachers, usually and always older than the students by virtue of their ages, are more susceptible to being aggressively damaged by the Covid virus. 

And what sense does it make to ask them to attend while the students are given days off? Are they dispensable? Do they know people don’t cry as much over the deaths of those who are not children?

Representational Image / web archives

I’m writing this anonymously because I’m afraid my mother will face the repercussions. Should such fear be expected from the educational sector of the government? Is this normal? 

Where are the regulatory bodies which check for the rights of these employees? Where do they take these/any grievances to? Why are government school teachers being treated as such expendables? 

Covid affects everyone differently. You cannot take the risk of waiting for someone to turn positive to shut down the school. I’m fuming with anger and desperation as I write this. Is this normal?

The pandemic highlighted gravely the unnecessary nature of physical presence in office for most jobs. Have we not learned a thing about the cost of human lives? 

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