Today is World Teachers’ Day 2020. On this day dedicated to educators, the MUT could have addressed the theme chosen by UNESCO for the year, “Taking the lead”, by referring to the current situation where educators are doing outstanding work in schools to adhere to health protocols and to continue providing the best educational experience to students during the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, the MUT would be repetitive in its message. Instead we believe that it is pertinent to look beyond this and instead focus on who is supposed to be leading and is instead failing.
COVID-19 Pandemic: The Government is failing to take a strong lead in introducing restrictive measures and in enforcing them during the pandemic. It has now resorted to a tactic whereby we cannot even speak about the pandemic. The Government is still not taking the pandemic seriously whilst it is continuously minimising its effects, including when reporting deaths. The MUT is requesting the Government to strengthen the enforcement of measures and awareness.
Responsibility: The Government has to shoulder the responsibility for the re-opening of schools during a pandemic where the R-factor and the number of positive daily cases is high. It cannot shift the blame onto others. Attempts to portray educators as lazy or frightened to return to schools, or worse to use some individuals to attack educators and the MUT, are clearly indicative that the Government wants to shift the blame of its shortcomings on others. The MUT will be holding the Government responsible for any shortcomings.
Preparation: The Government was clearly not prepared to open schools. Until a few weeks ago it continued to insist with educators in school management to refrain from changing timetables. The publication of protocols merely a month ago led to all the work carried out in schools by educators to prepare schools for re-opening. During the past weeks all educators have been involved in the re-opening preparation, most of them carrying out work which is clearly not part of their duties. The MUT expects the Government to admit that schools are being re-opened thanks to the endless efforts of educators.
Speculation: The Government does not have a clear and consistent policy regarding information about positive cases in schools. This is leading to speculation, with online media flooded with posts reporting positive cases in schools. The MUT, as a point of principle and as a professional organisation, shall not join this charade of speculation. However, it expects the Government to have its communication procedures in place to inform affected educators, students and parents and to ensure that measures are taken.
Restrictions: The Government is portraying the reopening of schools as a straightforward pick-and-choose exercise whereby students remain home or else attend schools. The message being portrayed is that both are interchangeable and students at home will have educators available as if they are at school. Notwithstanding technology, models of timetabling used and logistics, it is clear that educators cannot be split between students in schools and students at home. One group will suffer in any case. The MUT shall protect educators from pressures to double the workload to attend to this situation.
Scholastic year: The Government is failing to explain the implications related to the physical opening of the scholastic year. With every possible contact of educators and students with a positive case in schools or elsewhere, measures shall be taken in schools based on contact tracing. The scholastic year shall be like a vehicle which at most shall be driven through the first and second gears without the possibility to shift to higher gears. Expectations of all must be addressed. The MUT will not accept that educators are expected to do miracles in schools when there are limitations based on human resources available which have been magnified even more by the pandemic.
World Teachers’ Day should be an occasion to celebrate the teaching profession and draw attention to the voices of all educators. May this be a wake-up call to the Government to listen to what educators are saying and start taking the pandemic and all its implications seriously.
Attn educators: share the following as your profile photo as an appeal to everyone to take the pandemic seriously.