Visually impaired teachers in Rajasthan forced to conduct online classes in school
People with visual impairments are especially at risk due to the coronavirus pandemic. Recognising this, many states have exempted blind and low vision teachers from coming to school. But not in Rajasthan where visually impaired teachers in state government schools have been told to come to work every day. Their appeals to education authorities have gone unheard so far.
While the Ashok Gehlot government in Rajasthan battles for survival, everyday struggles of people coping with the coronavirus pandemic seem to be going unheard. Like visually impaired teachers in state government schools here.
Government schools in Rajasthan reopened on 24 June but unlike in many other states no exemptions have been made for teachers with disabilities. They must report to school to conduct online classes. For visually impaired teachers, this is risky given the norms of social distancing that have come into play post the coronavirus endemic and lockdown.
State government schools open since 20 May
“We are forced to depend on others when we move about”, points out Lal Chand Rawat, a visually impaired teacher at Senior Secondary Blind School at Ambamata in Udaipur. “Accidentally we touch people’s hands and there is always a worry that we could be exposed to someone who is Covid positive. When we take public transport, we don’t know if the seat has been sanitised”.
Many other states have kept these concerns in mind and given exemptions to visually impaired teachers. Rajasthan, however, has not entertained any petitions to this effect. “It is scary for us to travel” says Murtuza Ali Bohra, a blind government schoolteacher in Udaipur. “We are told to sanitise ourselves and maintain social distancing, but we have to touch other’s hands to move about. Before Covid, sighted people would help us board buses or cross the road. Now no one is willing to take that risk”.
Given that the classes are now online, teachers can teach students from home, they say. “We are using our own mobile phones and Internet, so why not allow us to do that from home? Why force us to go to school?”, asks Bohra.
Blind teacher dies of Covid
These anxieties have been heightened after the death of a visually impaired schoolteacher Lalit Sony five days ago. Sony, who was in his 30s, was teaching at a government school in Bilwa, near Jaipur.
After Lalit Sony’s death we again appealed to the Rajasthan government to exempt visually impaired teachers from the time schools reopened. They are being called to school for no reason. When sighted people travel, they can do so without touching anyone. They can board buses without taking support. Visually impaired people don’t have that option and risk getting infected with Covid. – Chetan Sharma, Managing Trustee, Udbhav Foundation
Teachers’ associations in Jaipur have appealed once again to Rajasthan Education Minister Govind Singh Dotasara as well as State Disability Commissioner Dhanna Ram Purohit urging the government to allow visually impaired teachers to work from home.
“I have to travel 10-km every day to school and I used an Ola bike service”, says Vijay Pandya, a visually impaired government schoolteacher in Udaipur. “I am scared that I will get infected but there’s no choice. If the government agrees to our plea, we will work with the same dedication from home. I am fortunate as I live in the city and have many means of transport. Imagine the plight of visually impaired teachers in rural areas”.
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