Let us face the imponderable truth, nobody knows when the whole world or rather a particular country might get vaccines to all its citizens. The vaccine of COVID-19 is the pivoting point of the world in the current scenario. As of October 2020, there were over 100 candidates for vaccine production around the world, according to WHO. A successful vaccine, though still in the making, has had the whole world discussing insistently on who all should be the priority groups to be given the vaccine.
Countries around the world have been attempting to prepare a multiphased vaccine regime. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on 24 Nov 2020, held a virtual conference with Chief Ministers of all states and Union Territories of India regarding the same. They reviewed the status and preparedness of COVID-19 response and its management. A special emphasis was on the 8 high contamination states – Haryana, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Kerala, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Gujarat and West Bengal.
The PM made it clear that in the first stage, the vaccine will be given to the frontline health workers, in the second stage to the police personnel, sanitation workers etc., and to those above 50 years of age in the third stage. The question arises here – what about the educators? Is this going to be the year where the education system around the world is suffering an unending unfairness? First, no salary then unemployment and now they are not even in the count for those who should be prioritized for the vaccine?
According to an article in 2018 by World Education News Reviews, India has the world’s second-largest school system with 1.5 million schools and approximately 8.7 million teachers. Now imagine most of them being unemployed or without salaries during the pandemic. Out of 1.3 billion population of India, about 260 million are school students who have been out of school since March 2020. There are discussions about reopening the schools but no appropriate ammunition is being considered that should be given to the teachers who are fighting this war of COVID, no less.
Dr. Swati Popat Vats, President APER, ECE & Podar Education Network, wrote a thought-provoking post on Facebook following the news. The post brought up a very crucial point that if India plans on reopening schools, shouldn’t teachers get the vaccines in priority too? Dr. Vats believes that schools should not be asked to reopen until the teachers are safe, that is until they’re given the vaccines. “There should be free and paid vaccines available and those that are in a certain tax slab should be made to pay for the vaccine. Others to get it free,” she writes in her viral FB post.
Dr. Vats is an influencer in the education world, her Facebook post almost immediately received many agreeing and supportive comments and was shared as well by educators all over the country. Even some parent groups that follow her agreed to the idea of having vaccinated teachers for their kids when the schools finally reopen.
To summarise, many educators like Dr. Vats feel that a meaningly thought should be given by the government towards the issue of teacher safety. That the second or third stage should include K-12 educators as well since the initial stage is rightfully deserved by the frontline workers. Also, since teachers work around children all the time, they should be vaccinated only after the vaccine has been proved useful and harmless.
The world has experienced the power our educators hold. During the lockdown, they managed to flip to virtual learning instantly and kept teaching unhesitantly. Irrespective of the challenges and no major financial help, we all know they will still keep going resiliently because a true teacher never gives up!
Back in August 2020, Russia reportedly planned to include the profession of teaching in the priority list along with the medical workers. Perhaps other countries can consider doing the same now.