Teachers struggle as COVID cases soar

March 07, 2022 - 11:00

The number of COVID-19 patients are increasing rapidly, especially in schools, and teachers, besides their professional work, are reluctant to become medical staff.

Nguyễn Thị Nguyệt Anh, a teacher of Thăng Long Primary School in Hoàn Kiếm District, Hà Nội, has COVID but still teaches online at home. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tùng

HÀ NỘI — As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise rapidly across the country, teachers are struggling to balance their professional vocation and new roles as ad hoc medical staff.

Teaching at a primary school in Hải Phòng, in contrast to the joy of welcoming students back to school after the Lunar New Year holiday, teacher Lê Thanh Tâm is instead struggling to keep up.

Usually a class of 37 students, at present, only 15 can learn in-person, as the rest either have COVID themselves or must isolate as they have been in close contact with a confirmed case. 

As a result, Tâm has to combine online and offline teaching.

Arriving at school at 7am, a teacher's day is very hard. Period one, she teaches an in-person class. For periods two and three, she has to run to another room for online teaching.

Anyone who has attended an online meeting will appreciate the difficulties that Tâm faces in online teaching. She tries to speak loudly and clearly so that students studying online can understand what she is saying while setting up different tasks and projects for each group. 

On top of all this, now many teachers are also suffering from COVID-19, creating a serious shortage of teachers. Along with her own schedule, Tâm is now trying to cover classes for her colleagues who are F0 or F1. 

"Before, I taught three periods in the morning, but now I have five periods because I was assigned to replace sick teachers. I have only six hours to sleep, and, in my schedule, there is no room for the word "rest" because I have to fulfil many things. 

"Most days, I work until 1am to complete books, mark students’ tests, enter the marks into books, and prepare lessons for the next day. My tears keep falling because of great burden," she told the Thế giới & Việt Nam (The World & Việt Nam) newspaper.

Tâm's story isn't unique. 

Working at a junior secondary school in Thái Bình Province, Trần Văn Trường said that about 60 per cent of students and 50 per cent of teachers at the school were F0 or F1.

The number of students studying online is more than those do in person. The school has upgraded equipment and an internet system to ensure classes go smoothly. 

As well as keeping busy with online and in-person teaching, teachers are also playing the role of medical staff.

"When an F0 appears at school, besides making a report and taking them to the temporary quarantine room, we also have to carry out disinfection work. Teachers and the school's security guards will wear protective clothing and disinfect and clean the affected areas to ensure students’ safety," he said.

Talking about his working life at the moment, Trường encapsulated it in two words: "hard work."

Similarly to Trường, Lã Thanh Hà is a teacher at a primary school in Gia Lai Province in the Central Highlands, who is also doubling as a medical worker.

Hà's day begins at 7am, taking body temperatures and attendance and disinfecting hands.  

During the lessons, along with the teaching work, she also has to constantly monitor and observe. If a student shows symptoms of cough or fever, she must immediately take the student down to the quarantine room for a test, then return to class to make a report.

Like the others, Tâm does not have time to rest. She said the hardest work was preparing lesson plans. Unlike teaching in a classroom, she must ensure that her lesson plans work for both in-person and online students at the same time. 

"After preparing the lesson plans, I check in with the students who are F0 or  F1, and update the school management board,” she said.

These tasks may seem insignificant but when combined, they take up a large amount of time in a teacher's work schedule.

The work doubles, or even triples, and the pressure is too much for many.

Tâm said that many young teachers are thinking of leaving the profession due to the pressures of the pandemic. 

"Perhaps the only thing that we want is the cooperation and understanding between the school, parents, students and teachers," she said. — VNS