Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020, besides paramedical staff of Jammu and Kashmir, the teachers have been on the frontlines not only to contain the spread of virus but also to create awareness among the public. Teachers were at the forefront to dispel the fear of psychosis caused by the raging pandemic.
Rising Kashmir’s correspondent Riyaz Bhat spoke to several teachers of the School Education Department performing Covid-19 duties who shared their experiences.
Gillo, a teacher of School Education department, says that as soon as his deployment order was issued by District Magistrate Srinagar in April 2021, he asked his school management to arrange his classes which he was teaching so that students won’t suffer, and joined the new duty very next day.
“I was deployed at a vaccination centre in Srinagar. Working with a vaccination team was an entirely different experience. There was a looming fear of getting infected and at the same time, we had to make people aware to follow Covid-19 appropriate behavior during the vaccination process.” he said.
“Despite getting to work in a hectic and risky atmosphere, we were happy that the government chose us to serve and contribute to society by fighting this deadly virus,” he said.
Recalling the initial days of his duty this year, Gillo said that when the vaccination process was rolled out in Jammu and Kashmir, teachers had to work for multiple weeks on stretch without taking any day off including Sundays.
“During the initial days in April and May, we would take a little breakfast with no lunch or tea in the day due to heavy rush of people in the vaccination centers. We didn’t mind that as the situation demanded so,” he said.
Gillo claims that in Srinagar and elsewhere, most of the people that were part of vaccination drives or conducted Covid-19 tests were teachers who worked with full dedication.
Rafiq Ahmad Rather
The COVID-19 pandemic had gripped the valley in pungent psychosis as not many wanted to venture into streets fearing contamination, hospitalization and possibly death. I was no different, scared to bones, for myself and for my kith and kin.
“Then my conscience jilted me and prodded me to do something to mitigate the pandemic. The teacher within me, someone who has been teaching the idealism of textbooks perpetually, volunteered for COVID-19 duties to be a frontline worker,” he claimed.
Rather was deputed at one of the Covid-19 centres at North Kashmir’s Baramulla district. “In the COVID-19 centre, l saw young and old, men and women, rich and poor gasping for oxygen, moaning in pain.”
“I saw death upfront with my naked eyes amidst all this doom and gloom, the silver lining was that my volunteering set-up a chain reaction and more of my colleagues from teaching fraternity volunteered and thereby were deputed as frontline workers,” he recalled.
Rather says that all of the medical, administrative and education staff stood tall in the troubled times notwithstanding the fact that they were bereft of any safety gear, specialized training. Many of the teachers actually contracted the dreadful disease and suffered the worst of symptoms like others.
He further says that “The shift of teaching in a classroom to accompanying health workers in health centers was a totally new learning experience for me.”
One of the deputed educators for COVID-19 emergencies, Ajaz Behry said that being an educator by profession, he had never imagined of serving the society as a medical front line worker.
“My journey to work as a COVID-19 warrior began in March 2020, when I was informed that I have been deputed for COVID mitigation team at TRC Srinagar,” he said.
Serving people, by helping in the Covid-19 mitigation was not an easy challenge for teachers and Behry was no exception. But with time, he learnt to deal with it and gave his best to serve his own people. “We did different sort of works including contact tracing, providing quarantine facilities to travelers, line listing of RAT tests, uploading the patient records and many more to keep a check on the COVID spread.”
Apart from dispatching his duties as a frontline COVID warrior, Behry says that he along with other teachers managed to carry with their online teaching process. “We were delivering online classes in our PPE kits, our students were surprised to see us like that,” said Behry.
Not boasting about the job they did, Behri is of the opinion that he took this as his other assignment and gave his best that he could have deliver. Behry claims that he is still helping with administration in COVID related things. Apart from that Behry is happy that he motivated the people to go for vaccination in times when people were hesitant to get vaccinated.
Behry is of the opinion that teaching community has a good understanding of situations like these, they understand the tough times and is the first one to respond positively.
Rashid is another teacher who was deputed as a front line worker to assist the medics. Rashid says that he was part of the team who were asking people to get vaccinated and busting the rumors about vaccines those times.
“It gives me happiness when I think of my work that I did in those times,” Rashid said.
Rashid believes that it is not the individuals who win, rather it is the team that does. “This is what motivated me to perform my duties to the best of my abilities.”