RAWALPINDI, July 26: Justice Ibadur Rehman Lodhi of Lahore High Court (LHC)’s Rawalpindi bench on Thursday restrained the Punjab government from taking any adverse action against 54 schoolteachers who refused to administer anti-polio drops to the children during the recently-concluded campaign.
The judge issued the restraining orders while hearing a petition of the 54 teachers against their alleged forced deployment for administering the anti-polio drops in different areas of Rawalpindi.
The court observed that teachers had a parental role in society, their responsibility is to educate children and they should not be forced to perform any other job against their stature.
Ausaf Ahmed Satti, the president of Elementary School Teachers’ Association, expressed a sigh of relief over the restraining orders and said teachers were facing an entirely strange and hostile environment during the anti-polio drives in far-flung areas.
He said those who minted money from the state coffers in the name of anti-polio drives sat in comfortable and air-conditioned environment, forcing teachers to work in the scorching heat. The government pays the teachers only Rs400 per week during the campaigns.
“Forcing teachers to administer vaccine against their will is an exploitation and humiliation of this noble profession as they cannot concentrate on their actual responsibilities.”
Raja Sajid Mehmood, a schoolteacher who had just received a show-cause notice for defying the orders for the administration of the anti-polio drops, told Dawn that people suspiciously looked at the teachers when they went for administering the drops.
He said during the anti-polio campaigns, teachers with a master’s degree have to work under the supervision of a matriculate or under-matric vaccinator which is itself a disgrace for the educators.
Citing provincial secretaries health, education, executive district officers and district coordination officer Rawalpindi as respondents, Saimul Haq Satti, the counsel for the schoolteachers, adopted before the court that on the one hand the government claimed to provide quality education to the children and on the other it had assigned schoolteachers different jobs other than their actual job of educating the children.
He said schools in the district of Rawalpindi were already witnessing shortage of staff, adding the situation was having an adverse impact on the quality of education in schools.
He informed the court that about 655,000 children were to be administered anti-polio drops in Rawalpindi during the campaign.
As many as 1,341 mobile teams comprising officials of the district health department, education department, teaching hospitals, police, population welfare, social welfare works, services and civil defence had been formed to visit door-to-door and administer anti-polio drops.
Advocate Satti alleged that the respondents were harassing the teachers and issuing them show-cause notices upon their refusal to administer the anti-polio drops, adding that the respondents were also marking the teachers’ attendance to ensure their presence at the assigned areas.
He said the act of Punjab government was illegal, unlawful and discriminatory; creating confusion, tension and unrest among more than 13,000 schoolteachers of the district.
A large number of teachers serving in schools are just living hand-to-mouth due to sky-high prices of daily-use items. And assigning them an entirely different nature of job is creating more trouble, hardships and anxiety among them, he added.
He claimed that fundamental rights of schoolteachers had been infringed, and requested the court to issue directives to the respondents for withdrawal of the orders to schoolteachers for administering anti-polio drops.