Overworked and underpaid, teachers in Karnataka seek help from counsellors

An increasing number of teachers are turning to school counsellors to cope with the stress of longer working hours amid the pandemic

September 04, 2021 11:10 pm | Updated November 22, 2021 10:08 pm IST - Bengaluru

Illustration: Sebastian Francis

Illustration: Sebastian Francis

The changes in the education system wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic have been hard on teachers, a majority of whom are struggling to cope with the new digital landscape and job loss/pay cuts. The phased reopening of school and college campuses has only added to their woes with longer working hours as they juggle conducting online and offline classes, managing domestic chores at home, and dealing with the ever-present fear of a third wave of COVID-19.

Unable to cope, many are turning to professional counsellors for help. School counsellors say they have seen a significant increase in the number of teachers approaching them for help.

Shruti Nedungadi, counsellor at Harvest International School, said that prior to the pandemic, on an average two teachers would approach her every month. Now, however, she has six or so teachers approaching her every month. “Work and life balance is a serious concern for teachers as they are working from home. In addition to that, many of the teachers are finding it difficult to manage behavioural concerns of children in online classes,” she said.

Preethi Mathur, a counsellor at Delhi Public School North, Bengaluru, said that most teachers were approaching counsellors as they had reached a stage of exhaustion. “They need someone to listen to their struggles,” she said.

Increasing workload

The workload on teachers has also increased as they have to conduct both online and offline classes. H.K. Manjunath, president of High School Assistant Masters’ Association, said their work hours had increased significantly as students had to be split into several batches to maintain physical distance as part of the COVID-19 SOP for students. “In my school at Hebbal, a teacher has to divide one section into three batches and teach the same lesson thrice in the classroom. In addition to that, the teacher has to conduct online classes for students who have chosen not to attend physical classes,” he said.

Rekha S., assistant teacher at Shanthinikethana School, said that before the pandemic, teachers would work for eight hours, but this had increased to 12 hours now. “We have to don the hat of homemaker as well as teacher, and it sometimes gets very chaotic. The sudden shift to online mode is a challenging one, but we have slowly learnt to adapt and improvise. We, however, still find it very difficult to communicate with students during online classes,” she said.

A teacher at a private school, who sought help from a counsellor, said the process helped her realise that she was placing the entire onus of domestic chores on herself due to conditioning. Now, her family has stepped in to help. “We have a timetable chalked out for the chores at home and I get ample time for my online classes,” she said.

Ms. Nedungadi pointed out that more teachers were seeking help as counsellors have made themselves accessible online. “School managements have also organised workshops on the well-being of teachers, which has helped them be more receptive to seeking professional help,” she added.

 

D. Shashi Kumar, general secretary of the Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka, said that all school managements under their umbrella would be given an advisory to conduct health camps for teachers with emphasis on eye check-up. “With online classes, teachers are fatigued as they are overworked. As they arse sitting for long hours in front of the computer screen, they are suffering from various eye problems,” he said.

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