Manjima Dhakal

Kathmandu, July 11: The country started vaccination campaign against COVID-19 from last January. Along with the availability of vaccine, frontliners, health workers, security personnel, journalists were vaccinated in priority. Soon after that, diplomatic mission employees, parliamentarians, government officials got the vaccine in priority. Now, the government has been running vaccinations on the basis of age group. However, teachers who are required to work with children by profession are demanding vaccination in special priority.

Different teachers’ organisations stated that though they were compelled to work in the mass of students they are saddened from the discriminatory behaviour of the state. Confederation of Nepalese Teachers (CNT), umbrella organisation of 14 different teachers’ organisations, has started protest with the demand for vaccination.
Purna Prasad Dawadi, acting chairperson of the CNT, said they will continue classes and other activities virtually without any obstruction for now. But, they will be unable to go to classroom after schools resume physically if they won’t be vaccinated.

Though the government is unable to bring national policy to vaccinate teachers in priority basis, some local governments of the country had arranged vaccination for teachers in priority from the vaccines available for them. Aathbishkot Municipality of

Rukum West called all teachers of their territory for vaccinations on Saturday. Likewise, many teachers of Kathmandu Metropolitan City, and Dhulikhel Municipality have already become vaccinated under the municipality’s management. However, due to the lack of national policy, still large numbers of teachers across the country are eagerly waiting for the shots. About 350,000 teachers are working across the country.

UNESCO has also urged all countries to prioritise teachers in national COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans to ensure education continues safely and schools remain open. According to the recent data of the UNESCO, globally, just 21 out of 197 countries accounting for 18 million primary and secondary teachers have been covered in the first phase of vaccination efforts. Another 37 countries have included teachers as a priority group for the second phase of vaccination. Meanwhile, 57 countries have not prioritised teachers at all who are expected to be vaccinated within the general population after “priority groups”. Likewise, 60 countries are unknown about the priority of teachers in the vaccination that includes 8 million teachers. Even in Nepal, authorities seem oblivious about the priority of teachers in the campaign till now.

“Remote education cannot be effective in all districts. In such a situation, physical classes have to resume in some districts where the risk of Covid-19 is lower. Therefore, the authorities have to arrange vaccines for all teachers of public and private schools with high priority to minimise the risk of infection from schools,” Suprabhat Bhandari, chairperson of the Guardians’ Federation said. He asked for the arrangement of vaccines for all teachers from 1,800,000 vaccines soon to come into the country.

Deepak Sharma, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education Science and Technology (MOEST), said they requested the Ministry of Health and Population to arrange vaccines for schools’ and universities’ teaching and non-teaching staff in priority. However, the Health Ministry is yet to decide about it though the MOEST has requested for it since last year, Sharma added.

Dr. Jhalak Sharma Gautam, chief of the national immunisation programme under the Department of Health Services, said many teachers already got vaccinated under the arrangement of local governments. However, the Ministry is yet to decide on the upcoming vaccination programme and the beneficiary groups. Therefore, he was unable to say when all teachers will get vaccines because there are other groups, too, waiting for vaccinations.

The Rising Nepal

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