The circular does not mention on students attending schools and colleges, but later the education department clarified that they must focus on 'home schooling'

Gangtok: Educational institutes in Sikkim are all set to open for faculties and support staff from September 1, but without the presence of students.

A circular from the education department that has gone viral over social media has created a lot of confusion, largely on the excluding students from attending school, all the while directing faculty members to attend.

The circular directs that “all school heads, teaching faculty, support staff and other employees of Government schools, colleges and educational institutions including ad-hoc teachers and ad-hoc Assistant Professors to attend duty from September 1”.

The circular does not mention on students attending schools and colleges, but later the education department clarified that they must focus on ‘home schooling’ with the faculty and support staff attending ‘irrespective of whether the educational institutions re-open or not’.

The circular, which has been signed by education secretary Anil Raj Rai, fails to mention on the commute for the teachers and staffs amid COVID-19 scare. But lays focus on the staff to engage in digital and offline mode of classes from their workplace with special attention to be given to upkeep the maintenance of the institutions.

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Educational institutions in the state have been shut since March 17 this year. Teachers, however, had been conducting classes online from their homes.

Another set of guidelines issued by the education department signed by the director of elementary education Bhim Thatal, who also heads the Samagra Siksha Abhiyaan, mentioned, “The schools and educational institutions will open only as per the directives of ministry of home affairs which the state government will scrupulously follow. Even if they don’t open school heads, faculty, teachers, including those in ad-hoc services along with support staffs must attend duty from September. They shall continue with the online and offline mode of learning and support the homeschooling initiative of the Education Department”.

Taking the ad-hoc teachers and professors into confidence, State’s Education Department has made their appointments official from September 2020 to March 2021, with salary for ad-hoc staffs to be released by the Department from September, mentions the government document.

The circular also directs the staff to disseminate information on National Education Policy 2020 from September 5 to 25 September with the Panchayati Raj Institutions. It further directs District Heads, SCERT, School and College heads to depute appropriate resource persons for the same.

Teachers on the contrary have been protesting on how they will facilitate their commute and how they will keep themselves safe from the pandemic. A teacher laments, “We don’t understand the point of going to schools when there are no students. In due course since March, most of us who work hard have found ways to reach students from our homes through digital home schooling. Now, the schools where we work does not even have sound mobile network, so how will the digital learning mode be inculcated. The concern is also of teachers and staffs assembling and commuting places to reach school and back home, the chances of spread of virus is rather more now”.

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Another teacher claimed, “Advantage taken by a few teachers has come to haunt us who have been working really hard even during this pandemic. Yes, there are teachers and faculties who have used the pandemic as an excuse to venture out of station for vacation. But that is not supposed to put all the other teachers at risk of contracting the virus and making our homes and surrounding unsafe during the pandemic. That is not justified for us who have been working, rather action must be taken against such teachers”.

Another document from Education Department that has gone viral, with Education Department’s Principal Secretary GP Upadhyaya as signing authority mentions, “It pains me to observe that such senior faculty members, drawing huge salaries and having huge responsibilities can be so casual in their approach and attitude towards their official duties. It is very obvious that they all have commited a grave misconduct by leaving the station, without permission taking advantage of the prolonged lockdown. We had taken a stand that in all such cases as a token of government’s displeasure, they all shall be awarded 10 days of Leave Without Pay and the rest of the period shall be leave due at their credit. This order needs to be implemented across all colleges, schools and technical institutions for such faculty members who left station without permission”. Upadhyaya couldn’t be reached for comment concerning the statement that has now gone viral.

Education Director Bhim Thatal, however, asserts the decision on faculty members to attend was not inclined merely on the internal discussion that went viral. He stated, “Every other department including the administration section of Education Department has been working day and night during the lockdown. We have not gone out of station, but have been working here. It is not a vacation for teachers something they must understand as well. We have initiated the process of faculty and staffs to attend school such that education institutions can be well maintained and on queries of internet and mobile education as part of home schooling endeavour launched on July 14, we feel the collective strength of teachers in schools, even without the presence of students, can work on collective brainstorming to solve the issues and ensure learning for our students amidst the pandemic. They can even welcome a few students for offline learning from nearby villages, but we want out faculty members to work as a lot of time have been wasted this year”.

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