RAWALPINDI, Nov 6: In what is being seen as a setback to the anti-polio campaign in the district, schoolteachers have refused to be part of the immunisation campaigns. They said due to the sense of insecurity and meagre financial benefits, they would not be performing their duty.
And on Monday, they also got a favourable verdict from the Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench.
The court directed the local administration not to assign polio vaccination duty to the teachers without their consent. It also ruled that no punitive action, like transfer to remote areas, should be taken against any teacher refusing the polio duty.
Teachers had moved the LHC two months back after refusing to administer polio drops.
They had demanded that the district administration should provide them security, increase the remunerations and assign them duty in their nearest union councils.
It may be noted that the district administration sends teachers on polio campaigns held under the health department without taking their consent.
The teachers are paid Rs250 per day for administering door-to-door polio drops besides Rs1,000 transport allowance for the three days.
Rawalpindi is one of the high-risk districts of the Punjab where according to Dr Zafar Gondal, the executive district officer (health), over 598,000 children under the age of five are administered drops every month. Most of the staff members are drawn from government schools, including female teachers.
“We have decided that teachers would be no more part of the polio campaign. The incentives are too less and our community, particularly female teachers, are vulnerable to violence,” said Sagheer Alam, the president of the teachers’ association, while talking to Dawn on Tuesday.
“One of our female teachers has complained that during a polio campaign in Gujar Khan, she was harassed by a man when she reached a house for polio vaccination. We don’t want to lose our honour for a paltry Rs250,” he added.
Fuzail Anwar, a schoolteacher, added: “We are assigned the task of preparing the voters’ lists and vaccinating children at their homes.
During these duties, our absence from classrooms affects the education of our students. Why only teachers should administer polio drops; is there no other department?” According to the EDO, out of the 3,200 polio staff, more than 2,000 are teachers.
He said refusal on part of the teachers would create a big challenge for the district administration during the upcoming vaccination campaign starting from November 12.
The EDO said the remuneration being given to the teachers was in accordance with the standard of World Health Organisation (WHO). He added that his office was not authorised to increase the amount.
“Not all teachers have refused to be part of the campaign rather a few have reservations. Refusal on part of the teachers is not logical as we can resolve the issue amicably but not at the cost of the health of children,” said Saqib Zaffar, the district coordination officer of Rawalpindi, while talking to Dawn
He said Rawalpindi had improved its polio immunisation ranking in Punjab from 11th to 9th position because of successful campaigns.
In case all teachers refuse to take part in the campaigns, staff from other departments would be arranged, the DCO added.