Like many other sectors bearing the brunt of the pandemic, our education system has been hit in an unprecedented manner. With schools shut for indefinite periods, educators and students alike have been left in a dilemma. Yesterday, we observed World Teachers' Day, with this year's theme being "Teachers: Leading in crisis, reimagining the future". Yet many of our teachers, especially from private schools from outside the city, including kindergarten and other primary level schools and non-MPO secondary schools, are in a crisis of their own—struggling with no financial assistance from the government. While the profession of teaching always reserved a sense of dignity in our society, the onslaught of Covid-19 has made it all the more miserable for the teachers who are now grappling to make ends meet.
The pandemic has already forced many schools to shut down, with the infrastructures of around 500 schools reportedly being put on sale. All of the teachers employed in these institutions are now left without a source of income. Other schools that are struggling to make ends meet are only paying partial salaries to teachers, many of whom have already lost the private tuition fees that they used to supplement their existing low pay. A recent report in this daily revealed the hardships of such teachers, many of whom have taken up professions they never thought they would—working as mason's helpers, boatmen, labourers, vendors, auto-rickshaw and three-wheeler drivers—in order to put food on the table. If such is the plight of those who are meant to educate our younger generations, what does the future hold? The report states there are about 40,000 kindergarten schools in the country with around six lakh teachers, and 20 percent of the teachers have switched professions already. More than two lakh teachers of non-MPO secondary schools and colleges are also facing hardships.
The plight of our educators must be addressed with urgency. More research needs to be done to collect accurate data regarding this crisis, and the authorities must do everything they can to provide financial assistance to teachers as well as the schools that employ them, to prevent them from shutting down. While the government has already given comprehensive stimulus packages to support different sectors during the economic downturn created by the pandemic, our school teachers must not be left behind and forgotten, especially when most of them are still continuing the noble task of imparting knowledge to the future generations, despite the pressures of the pandemic.