Published: 23rd March 2021
With election duty, unit tests, pressure to complete syllabus for board exams and COVID wave, Tamil Nadu's teachers feel the heat
As is common knowledge, school teachers are busiest during board exams and elections, the two overlapping is not unusual. However, the circumstances this year are unusual
As if board exams less than four months after schools reopening and massive teaching hurdles weren't stressful enough, the decision to hold Tamil Nadu elections at the same time has left teachers feeling overwhelmed. The government announced in February that board exams for +2 students will be held from May 3 — while the assembly elections will be conducted on April 6 and the results will be announced on May 2.
As is common knowledge, school teachers are busiest during board exams and elections, though the two overlapping is not unusual. However, the circumstances this year are unusual as due to COVID, schools only reopened on January 19. Now with exams in May (there is talk that they may be virtual if COVID numbers continue to mount), teachers have been rushing to finish the syllabus even as unit tests are being conducted simultaneously. With election duty, adding on to their already long list of responsibilities, some teachers say they are quite stressed out.
Add to this the fact that schools have been unceremoniously shut and classes moved back to the online mode owing to a surge in COVID numbers and their cup is truly overflowing.
One teacher said that immediately after the elections, the government has scheduled practical exams. “Already we haven’t been able to help any students who did not benefit from the online classes, which in the case of government schools is most children. We were directly pushed to conduct unit tests. But we do need to do some training for the students before the practical exams and we worry we may not have enough time,” a teacher said. Schools will also be used as polling booths, so students won’t be able to come for classes or to clear doubts, the teachers pointed out.
The training for the elections is being conducted on Sundays, which leaves the teachers with no breaks, “For almost 21 days, we will be working continuously. Six days in school and then Sunday as well. We have personal work also to do but we are not getting any breaks. So I feel really exhausted. When we complain, authorities say that it's okay that we have to work so much since we sat at home during the COVID lockdown. But that is unfair to us, so many teachers have suffered due to the lockdown too,” another teacher said.
The teachers are relieved that classes 9-11 don’t have exams, so the burden on them is slightly lessened. But the fact that they are rushing with the portions for class 12 while also holding unit tests, has caused quite a bit of stress, “We are doing all we can. It isn’t even that much about the stress. But we are not able to get the full satisfaction of ensuring that the students have learned properly because there is simply no time.”
PK Ilamaran, the President of the Tamil Nadu Teachers’ Association said that the timing of the elections and the exams are not such a problem but felt it would benefit +2 teachers if they were exempted from election duty, “The elections will take place only on the ground floor of schools, so maybe it won’t be too much work. But the day after the elections are announced, the board exams are scheduled to start, that is slightly worrying because we don’t know how the atmosphere would be at that time. And teachers could be overworked. So I think it would be best to exempt +2 teachers from election duty,” he said.