PESHAWAR: After repeated attacks on polio vaccination teams across the country, public teachers followed the footsteps of lady health workers (LHWs) on Friday and announced a boycott of the anti-polio drive in the provincial capital.
The decision was made during a meeting of the All Primary Teachers Association. The association’s president Malik Khalid told The Express Tribune they have taken up the issue of security with the provincial government time and again, but their demands for enhanced safety measures has not been met.
“Around 9,000 teachers of the city got text messages from the district coordination office to take part in the drive or be prepared to face punishment,” he said, adding male and female teachers contacted the association and shared their apprehensions.
“The government should task other department officials with vaccination duties or should hire the unemployed to the job,” Khalid said, adding the boycott decision is the collective stance of teachers, regardless of government threats. He further said the teachers of middle and high schools will not vaccinate children against polio. “There has been no decline in targeted attacks on polio teams,” he said.
He said the government was yet to announce any compensation or support for families of three colleagues killed in Charsadda, Badhaber and Karkhano. A female primary school teacher requesting anonymity told The Express Tribune, “It is surprising that the government cannot manage to conduct the immunization drive in the province despite receiving hefty funds for eradicating the endemic.”
She said their job was imparting education inside the classroom which was being sidelined at the expense of risk-laden polio duties. “We are paid Rs500 for two days and even this meagre amount gets paid to us after two to three months,” she added.
Similarly, a male middle school teacher, wishing not to be named, said the government should come up with alternate plans by asking parents to take their children to nearby hospitals, schools and health units for anti-polio drops.
“We cannot vaccinate children door-to-door, especially our female counterparts, owing to growing security threats, despite knowing that it is a national obligation,” he said.
On January 22, after attacks on polio vaccination teams in Manshera, Karachi and Punjgur in Balochistan, LHWs had announced a boycott of the vaccination campaign in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2014.