Teachers from various districts of Punjab Saturday appealed to Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar to order withdrawal of their ‘irrelevant duties’ at wheat procurement centers. The district administrations in Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Bhakkar, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Khanewal, Mianwali, Nankana Sahib, Faisalabad, Vehari and Sargodha have deputed teachers at wheat procurement centers and grain markets.
‘This is sheer violation of the Supreme Court of Pakistan’s verdict. The district administration assigns us such duties, which is tantamount to disrespect the noble profession of teaching,’ Central President of Punjab Teachers Union Chaudhry Muhammad Sarfaraz told. Even the Punjab education minister, he said, had also directed against any such deployment but the district authorities were violating the directives.
He said teachers in Gujrat had been recalled from the wheat procurement duties, but in other districts they were still being forced to do the job. According to Kashif Shahzad, President of Computer Teachers Association of Punjab, mostly information technology (IT) teachers were deputed for data entry at the wheat procurement centres with the senior teachers of other cadres as coordinators. He cited the example of Bahawalpur district, where 28 IT teachers were deputed for data entry at the centres and senior teachers of other cadres as coordinators. He said the province already faced shortage of IT teaching staff with only one teacher per school and their engagement in such irrelevant duties hurt the teaching process.
He alleged that rather than resisting the district administration’s directives, the district education officers fully implemented the same just to appease their reporting officers. ‘This is also the violation of Punjab Government’s repeated instructions forbidding the education authorities to assign non-teaching tasks to the teachers. We demand the Punjab chief minister to take notice, withdraw duties and take action against those responsible, else we will be compelled to launch a protest,’ Kashif Shahzad said.
‘Wheat procurement has nothing to do with us. We are neither experienced in procurement and distribution of gunny bags nor in handling the issues of grain markets. We have been pushed here to bear the scorching heat throughout the holy month of Ramazan till the end of harvesting season,’ senior teacher Muhammad Iqbal Baibrus, who has been deputed as a coordinator in the Bahawalpur district, said.
The School Education Department, in a circular issued on October 08, 2019, directed all the district education officers in Punjab not to assign any clerical or data entry duties to the teachers. The department, in another circular bearing No. SO(A-1)3-4/2015 (SED-II) dated December 6, 2019, issued a directive to all the chief executive officers of the district education departments: ‘IT teachers shall not be entrusted any clerical or data uploading tasks which is frequently required by the monitoring regime. No IT teacher shall be surrendered under the pretext that he failed or refused to perform non-teaching functions, which are not part of his job description.’
On the contrarily, many IT teachers had been suspended in Bahawalpur, Jhang, Faisalabad and Hafizabad after they could not perform duties, mainly for their inability to travel there owing to the unavailability of transport due to the lockdown imposed in the country to curb the spread of coronavirus. ‘We are willing to perform welfare duties like the Ehsaas Programme or coronavirus control, but wheat procurement should be done by the employees of Punjab Food Department. They have their own staff to do the job. Why such softwares are developed by the Food Department, which its employees cannot operate,’ said Irfan Qamar, an IT teacher from Khairpur Tamewali.