Equated to doctors: how Tatarstan teachers celebrate 'Covid-19' Teacher's Day

Equated to doctors: how Tatarstan teachers celebrate 'Covid-19' Teacher's Day
Photo: Ilya Repin

25 not a thousand, but did they count all of them?

Since the beginning of September, 25 teachers have been ill with COVID-19 in Tatarstan, Marina Patyashina, the head of the republican department of Rospotrebnadzor, told Realnoe Vremya on 5 October. Of course, this is not much compared to Moscow. But only a month has passed since the start of the school year, and it is still unclear how events will develop against the background of the growing incidence of coronavirus.

In Russia, in the first week of September alone, about a thousand teachers caught coronavirus. Later statistical data have not been published: either teachers stopped diagnosing COVID-19, or the department considered it unnecessary to keep such statistics. But the scale of the spread of the virus can be indirectly judged by fresh data from Ukraine: the local ministry of healthcare reported that as of October 4, 1,257 students and 2,158 teachers got sick with Covid-19.

This means that even 25 ill teachers and teachers of universities and technical schools in Tatarstan are a serious threat. Because every teacher is in contact with hundreds of children and young people, with their parents, and before obvious signs of infection, those infected share the virus exponentially.

If we add to this that not everyone with a high fever get tested for coronavirus, that asymptomatic patients (which is how children most often get sick) are not detected at all, and that the average age of teachers in Tatarstan is about 50 years and older, that is, this category is the most vulnerable in terms of severe complications, and the epidemiological picture is clearly non-optimistic.

According to the head of the republican Rospotrebnadzor, teachers fell ill with coronavirus mainly in Kazan. Photo: Maksim Platonov

There are fewer sick students than sick teachers

Nevertheless, Rospotrebnadzor and the ministry of education and science believe that there are no grounds for alarm.

“From September 1, isolated cases have been registered in educational institutions," said Marina Patyashina. “This is 25 teachers of schools, universities and technical schools. As of today, 11 cases are being examined by contact persons and isolation measures are still ongoing, while 14 cases have been completed. Seven schoolchildren also fell ill, and two have already recovered.

According to the head of the republican Rospotrebnadzor, teachers fell ill with corona mainly in Kazan, although there are cases of teachers in Drozhzhanovsky, Laishevsky, Nurlatsky, Sabinsky, Pestrechinsky districts, Naberezhnye Chelny, Almetyevsk, Buinsk.

Lessons from the bed

The Tatarstan ministry of education and science assured Realnoe Vremya that the situation in the republic's schools is not such as to transfer students to distance learning, but in other Russian regions the situation seems to be not so good (or they are more actively identifying Covid-19 patients among the patients with viral respiratory infections).

In Moscow, it has already been announced that elderly (65+) teachers and teachers with chronic diseases are planned to be transferred to remote work, and senior students from pedagogical universities will be sent to classes instead. So to speak, they combine the pleasant with the useful: provide future teachers with practice, which will be managed by experienced mentors from home, drawing up lesson plans and monitoring the course of classes.

The Tatarstan ministry of education and science assured Realnoe Vremya that the situation in the republic's schools is not such as to transfer students to distance learning. Photo: tatarstan.ru

The regions where the situation with morbidity is more alarming than in Tatarstan have taken a different path. In Chelyabinsk, for example, teachers were required to teach live lessons and study online with those who are quarantined due to illness. For one salary, teachers bear a double burden and, of course, dodge as they can — many instead of online lessons and zoom conferences, they send students tasks for independent work.

On a popular Web page, a teacher from one of the Russian regions anonymously described another “progressive” method: “Teachers with cold symptoms that are clearly visible have to be sent home!.. Okay, the teacher is home. Going on sick leave! But what to do next? There is no replacement. This question was quickly answered by the local education committee. Let teachers teach lessons from home. After all, there was distance learning, everything worked out! With the capacities of modern technology, even from a hospital bed, we will be able to bring the good and eternal to the children's masses.”

At the same time, teachers who are already on the part of the probability of illness due to the many contacts with “asymptomatic” fit to equate with doctors, can hardly count on any additional payments and compensation. Realnoe Vremya asked Tatarstan teachers whether they are ready to risk their health for an idea — for the sake of the quality of education.

Teachers who are already on the part of the probability of illness due to the many contacts with “asymptomatic” fit to equate with doctors, can hardly count on any additional payments and compensation. Photo: Rinat Nazmetdinov

“What is meant to happen will happen”, and “you can die of melancholy”

“I teach online Tatar language courses myself," says Yelvira Markova, a teacher at Bala City, the Cambridge international school. “My students learn the material successfully. But distance learning uses a completely different method than at school, and I have only three people in the group, but in a conventional class — twenty or thirty students. I saw how my nephew studied in such conditions — this is not a study! Because it is impossible to control everyone, and children require control, not everyone is motivated. And we are not ready to give lessons online at school — not all teachers have convenient platforms for this. That is why I am a supporter of the traditional organization of education, despite the risks for teachers.

Elvira Markova says that she is a fatalist, so she is not very afraid for herself in terms of infection with coronavirus:

“What is meant to happen will happen. But, of course, I am afraid to infect my elderly mother, who belongs to the vulnerable category. Moreover, my relative, a deeply disabled person, died from coronavirus, and it was a heavy loss, and I feel very sorry for the person...

Director of the Kazan boarding school Solntse, Pavel Shmakov, horrified that somewhere teachers were required to conduct lessons online on sick leave, said that the golden middle should be found in everything:

“We have elderly teachers who can legally not go to work, but they do — they just can't stay at home. Because yes, they are at risk, but being locked up in four walls, you can die not from coronavirus, but from longing. People need communication!”

As it turned out, in this school there are also teachers who, having fallen ill, on their own initiative go to distance learning by the end of the sick leave. Not on duty, says the director, and not by the orders of the management, but because they need to communicate with students and worry about them:

“There should be a measure in everything. After all, in the “pre-Covid-19" era, Rospotrebnadzor warned that it was harmful for young children to sit behind a computer for a long time, and then measures to combat infection came out in the first place, as if they had forgotten about it. As a result, the number of primary school children with impaired vision has probably increased! So it's not a matter of heroism, but of trying to do everything to reduce the likelihood of infection to a minimum: to seat children at single desks, ventilate the premises.

By Inna Serova
Tatarstan