West Bengal teachers fume over childcare duty

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Kolkata — If you are a primary teacher in West Bengal, be prepared to double up as a nanny. Or so it seems from a recent circular sent to schools along with nail clippers and soaps by the administration in Nadia district.

The circular had primary school teachers fuming as they were asked to maintain students’ personal hygiene by trimming their nails and washing their hands with soap.

According to local media reports Wednesday, District Magistrate Onkar Singh Meena sent the order to all 2,700 primary schools in the district last month, following a survey by the health department.

The study showed that every year about 30,000 people in Nadia suffer from diarrhoea, gastro-enteritis and other stomach ailments. Of them, 80 percent were children.

Over the past three weeks, district authorities have supplied 10 nail-clippers and 10 soaps to each school.

Many teachers feel the instructions are difficult to implement. The circular asked them to inspect the students’ nails when they come to school or before their mid-day meal.

There are 900,000 primary school students in Nadia and one teacher for 70 children.

“We have five hours of school. Over an hour goes in distributing the meal. If a teacher has to inspect the nails of 70 children, cut their nails and wash their hands with soap, when will we teach?” asked Suren Das of Hanskhali Primary School.

The teachers have lodged their protest with the district primary school council.

To placate the teachers, Council chairman Bibhash Biswas has asked them to assign student representatives the task of keeping a check on their mates’ nails.

However, the district magistrate is determined to have his circular followed. “I’ll ensure that,” said Meena.

“I have also asked schools not to cook the mid-day meals in the open. I was alarmed at the health report. We must control the outbreak of enteric diseases among children,” he asserted.