The COVID-19 pandemic has proved to be the worst shock to the education systems of countries across the globe. Schools, colleges, and universities continue facing closure over and over again. Since the education sector also provides health, nutrition, and psychosocial services, the overall wellbeing of students has declined substantively. Now when the coronavirus vaccination has arrived, the recovery of the student and teacher community must start immediately.
Experience from the reopening of educational institutions around the world shows that educational institutions compared to other workplaces are safer and securer environments. These places are immune to operate even when the overall community transmission hasn’t been downright limited and vaccination coverage is low. As for young school children, the research shows that they are not only less likely to transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus than adults, but they are also less likely to suffer from other variants of COVID-19. Talk of college and university students, they are more responsible and educated adults who are well aware of how to protect themselves against the virus by complying with SOPs. What is more, the management of universities especially those operating in the private sector has mastered the best management practices to get students to practice SOPs and remind them of the learned discipline rules. Undeniably, the mitigation efforts like masking, physical distancing, ventilation, and handwashing can effectively reduce disease diffusion. Therefore, it is high time that the students return to their learning places. We should provide comprehensive support to get their learning, health, and overall wellbeing back on track. This is only possible when we provide vaccination to teachers, university faculties, and supporting staff. These people are at a greater risk of contracting the virus than students and are more likely to suffer severe consequences. Hence, it is imperative for Pakistan to prioritize teachers and other staff for vaccination, after frontline personnel and high-risk populations.
Today, many more countries of the world have started the vaccination process for teachers and staff of educational institutions as first, second, and third priority groups. A good number of countries in Europe including Germany, Spain, and Malta are providing vaccination to teachers and other supporting staff. Even South Africa is doing the same. Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan and many other middle and low-income countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Gambia, Cambodia, and Viet Nam have been reported being among the list of countries that have prioritized the teachers and other supporting staff of schools and universities within the first group of vaccination.
Many names are included in the list, but Pakistan seems nowhere. Chile which is around the same size as Pakistan has managed to vaccinate more than half of the country’s teachers and education workers.
Recently, the International Taskforce on Teachers for Education 2030 launched an international Call for Action on Teachers to highlight critical measures that governments around the world should take to support educational institutions in the global pandemic, including the “protection of teachers’ and students’ health, safety and well-being”. Similarly, in December 2020, UNESCO and Education International advised all the countries to include teachers as a priority group in national vaccination rollout plans to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and protect teachers and students in an effort to make certain the continuation of education and a safe return to the in-person teaching-learning environment.
Providing vaccination to the faculty and staff is the need of the hour. What are we waiting for? For the pandemic to disappear permanently? For the entire population of the country to get vaccinated? Are we waiting for some miracle to happen? No miracle is going to take place. So we need to take bold decisions. People associated with academia are the most deserving ones after health workers and other high-risk populations, so to secure the future of our generation we need to vaccinate these people. Even many nonprofit organizations have come forward with the request that they should be permitted to import the COVID vaccine. The fact such as this and others like every private school and university are ready to spend on the vaccination of their employees since they already contribute to the employees’ healthcare insurance should be kept in mind. The government should also make its contribution by giving at least one dose of vaccination to every teacher and staff member of the educational institution. The second dose would be arranged by management. Moreover, all university students should be vaccinated free of cost. This is how we can save lives and save educational institutions of the country.
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