The members of Tamil Nadu High Schools and Higher Secondary Schools Graduate Teachers Association (TNHSHSSGTA) on Thursday demanded the state government to cancel Class 11 board exam paper evaluation in Kancheepuram, Chengalpattu and Tiruvallur districts. The association sought relief as one of the teachers working in a camp in Tambaram, located in Chengalpattu district tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
According to A Mayavan, Founder-President of TNHSHSSGTA, the teachers who were working along with the COVID-19 patient have not been quarantined yet. The association told three teachers to stay at home but the remaining two teachers have been reporting to work, he said.
â€śThe two teachers are working with another batch of staff as the government has not given the nod to close the camp in Tambaram. I spoke to the Joint Director about this matter but he just told me that the teacher contracted the virus from her husband, who was an inspector. Since she is a secondary contact, he said the risk is low. But we cannot take the risk when it comes to the lives of peopleâ€ť Mayavan said.
As the association demanded that the government cancel the evaluation of papers for the high school and higher secondary school exams, Mayavan said that Chennai district was exempted from the paper correction duty. However, as the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase in the neighbouring districts, the association is now demanding that the government should cancel the duty for teachers in Kancheepuram, Chengalpattu and Tiruvallur districts as well.
Longer working days for some camps neighbouring Chennai
At a time when COVID-19 cases are increasing steadily in the state, the work schedule for teachers in Kancheepuram, Chengalpattu and Tiruvallur districts state that they have to be on duty till June 22. However, evaluation in some of the camps in these three districts and other orange and green zone areas will be completed by Saturday.
â€śThe teachers of Kancheepuram, Chengalpattu and Tiruvallur districts are told to work till June 22 as per schedule. On seeing this, a group of teachers in Kancheepuram walked out of the camp on Wednesday. However, we told them that we will talk to officials and ask them to take action. If Class 11 marks will not be helpful for the next academic year or getting college seats, why should we risk our lives?â€ť Mayavan questioned.
â€śThe Education Department should divert the papers to the green zone areas and relieve teachers from performing their duties in hotspot districts immediately,â€ť he added.
The association members have also been receiving numerous complaints that thermal screenings are not being done on a regular basis. Association members alleged that thermal screening was conducted during the initial days and are not being done currently in certain evaluation camps. The government is also providing only one mask per person since the evaluation began, which teachers say, is not adequate. They further said that buses arranged by the government for paper evaluation are crowded and thereby increase the chance of spread of the virus.
Private teachers rely on money provided for paper evaluation
The association members also planned to file a writ petition in the Madras High Court to stop the Class 11 paper evaluation. However, the association members did not go ahead and file the petition as many private school teachers rely on the meagre amount they earn for evaluating papers.
â€śThe teachers from containment zones are also coming for work. The association has given an option for the vulnerable group of people to stay at home. However, only the people who trust the association stay at home, the rest are scared that the government will issue notices against them. Hence, they continue to report for work,â€ť Prabhakaran, a teacher and member of the association said.
On the other hand, Prabhakaran alleged that many private school teachers, who did not receive their salary for the past months, rely on the small amount they earn for evaluating papers. â€śA teacher will receive only around Rs 3,000 and this money is helping them survive during this period,â€ť he said.
TNM has reached out to School Education Commissioner Sigy Thomas and is awaiting a response.