Bhubaneswar: In an open violation of the guidelines of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and the University Grants Commission (UGC), the Higher Education Department of the Odisha government has made a mandatory provision for college teachers to start online classes from their respective campus, beginning July 13.
It may be recalled that the secretary of MHRD Amit Khare had, in a letter (No- 16-6/2020-U1A) to the UGC chairman, AICTE (All India Council of Technical Education) chairman, National Testing Agency (NTA) and chief secretaries of all states and Union Territories (UTs) on June 30, apprised them of the June 29 directive of MHA for the closure of all educational institutions till July 31 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and allow faculty members, teachers, researchers and non-teaching staff of higher educational institutions to work from home till such period (July 31) to ensure their safety and utilize this period for various academic activities which has already been communicated (March 21).
The MHRD secretary had also told them to count the period (till July 31) for faculty members, teachers, researchers and non-teaching staff including the ad-hoc and contract teachers as being on duty.
He had also said that in case of exigency, any faculty member/teacher/researcher/non-teaching staff may attend or be asked to attend the educational institution with all precautionary measures as mentioned in the guidelines issued by the Home and Health ministries. All faculty members/teachers/researchers/non-teaching staff should provide their contact details like mobile number, email id, etc to their institutions so that they could be contacted in case of any emergency.
Apart from the MHRD secretary, the UGC secretary Prof Rajnish Jain had also sent the MHA guidelines to all vice-chancellors on July 1.
However, flouting the directive, commissioner-cum-secretary, Higher Education, Saswat Mishra, in an order on July 2 directed the university vice-chancellors and principals of degree colleges in Odisha to conduct online classes from the college premises for under-graduate (UG) and post-graduate (PG) students from July 13.
Mishra also directed all staff of higher educational institutions to attend duty in their respective institutions in two shifts.
The directive of the Higher Education Department has understandably evoked strong resentment among teachers.
Reacting to the order of the Higher Education Department, the All Odisha Aided College Teachers’ & Employees’ Association (AOACTEA) said this is nothing but a move to harass the teachers.
“We have no issues with the order of the Higher Education Department to conduct online classes. But it is not necessary for a teacher to go to his/her college daily to conduct the online classes considering the manner in which the COVID-19 pandemic in the state has reached alarming proportions. The teachers should be allowed to go to their respective colleges once in a week to review the progress and status of the online education with their colleagues as well as the principal while on the remaining days they will conduct the online class with their students. However, they are forced to conduct online classes at their respective colleges at a time when there is no communication for them as the buses have stayed off the road. We fail to understand this weird perception of the Higher Education Department which has not only put the lives of these teachers at stake but also their family,” working president of the All Odisha Aided College Teachers’ & Employees’ Association (AOACTEA), Manas Purohit said.