Pakistan school teacher islamabad temperature
A teacher checks the temperature of a student at a school, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: When a female schoolteacher in Mianwali city of Punjab lost her job allegedly for “bringing her baby at work” it caused a social media uproar and sparked a strong reaction from Pakistani educators after which the teacher was promptly restored.

Ms Ishrat Sattar, who teaches at Government Higher Secondary School (GHSS), in Harnoli, Mianwali, was suspended over “inefficiency and misconduct” after “she was found playing with her child” the notification read. Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas said on Twitter that the tutor was suspended for “not attending to the teaching activities” and not observing “COVID-19 regulations”. He added that the school CEO has been asked “to restore her with a warning” but “If this happens again, action will be taken.”

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Debate on rights of teachers

The incident stirred up a debate on social media over the rights of teachers and inadequate facilities at schools under the hashtag #FemaleTeacherSuspension. Citizens as well as educators supported the schoolteacher and said that working parents should be allowed to bring infants to work. Pakistanis cited the examples of Pakistan’s former premier Benazir Bhutto who was the first world leader to give birth while in office and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who recently attended the United Nations General Assembly with her baby.

“Such teachers deserve appreciation not suspension who didn’t take leave for her child and performed her duty of being a teacher as well as mother at the same time” wrote Syed Qasim Raza on Twitter. “Teachers are also human beings. Treat them with kindness and respect” said an account titled Punjab Educators that shared photos of Pakistani women legislators and bureaucrats who brought their kids to work.

Day care centres

Some teachers demanded to establish day care centres in every school and workplace to encourage women, who comprise of over half of Pakistan’s population, to join the workforce. Many teachers who are parents need childcare options to take care of their new-borns and young children. Both public and private schools must offer day care centres to support new parents,” Salma Khalid, an Islamabad-based junior class teacher, told Gulf News. “It will also ease the burden as teachers working in private schools cannot afford day care centres in paltry salaries.”

Maternity benefits

Article 37(e) of Pakistan’s Constitution directs the state to ensure “maternity benefits for women in employment” while Punjab Maternity Benefits Ordinance, 1958 mandates that “commercial and industrial establishments” provide their female employees 12 weeks of full-paid maternity leave. However, many organizations particularly in the private sector violate the rules. Most companies do not have day-care services for infants and do not allow flexible work hours or paid leave for mothers.