PESHAWAR: Declaring illegal the additional duty of public sector schoolteachers in tribal districts to vaccinate children against polio, the Peshawar High Court has stopped the government from giving those educators the tasks not permissible by law.
The development came as a bench consisting of Justice Musarrat Hilly and Justice Ijaz Anwar accepted a petition filed by 42 male and female schoolteachers from Mohmand district against a ‘demand letter’ issued by their district health officer to the district education officer seeking their services for polio vaccination, as well as several related orders of the deputy commissioner.
The petitioners had requested the court to direct the respondents, including the health, law and home secretaries and Expended Programme on Immunisation director, to issue a circular for tribal districts like the one issued by the federal government for the duties of teachers in light of the Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2012.
Lawyer Mohammad Ilyas Orakzai appeared for the petitioners and said his clients belonged to Mohmand tribal district and had been working on different posts of teachers in the education department.
Stops govt from giving those educators tasks not permitted by law
He contended that the services of his clients were specifically hired for teaching children under the Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2012.
The counsel said that the said law was enacted making it compulsory for all children of five to 16 years of age to get education in schools established by the government.
He said that Mohmand district’s deputy commissioner issued different orders in the year 2020 nominating a number of schools teachers both men and women as polio focal persons for their respective unions and tehsil councils.
Mr Orakzai said that in continuation of those orders, the district health officer issued a demand letter on Dec 29, 2020, to the district education officer for assigning those male and female teachers for duties during anti-polio campaigns.
He argued that the orders issued by the deputy commissioner and the subsequent demand letter by the district health officer were illegal and violated the Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2012, and therefore, they were liable to be struck down.
The counsel argued that Section 19 (3) of that law did not permit to deploy any teacher for any non-educational purpose other than population census, disasters, relief duties or election-related duties.
He contended that polio vaccination campaign did not fall within the definition of disaster, which was provided in the National Disaster Management Act 2010.
Mr Orakzai pointed out that the Islamabad High Court had in same nature of petition issued a judgement, which was implemented by the federal government through a circular issued on Feb 12, 2018, for strict compliance and that it was directed that non-educational duty other than those permissible under the law not be assigned to the public sector school teachers.
He contended that it was the duty of the respondent to arrange manpower for that purpose.
The counsel said that tribal districts of the province were badly affected by the war against terrorism and that normally, a single teacher was provided by the government to a school.
“If the said single teacher is hired for duties other then education, children will certainly suffer,” he said.
Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2022