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As pandemic rages in Delhi-NCR, schools grapple with teacher deaths

The management of GD Goenka Signature School, Sohna notified students and parents about the death of principal Ritu Pathak through their website. Similarly, the website of St Xavier’s School, Raj Niwas Marg notified its community of the death of long-time educator, vice-principal K J Devasia.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi |
Updated: May 4, 2021 8:20:40 pm
Covid-19Grieving relatives of a Covid patient who died at the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality Hospital in New Delhi (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

Already reeling under a pandemic that has forced them to change the way they operate, schools are now grappling with the deaths of several teachers and educators to Covid-19 across Delhi and NCR.

On Monday evening, Dr V K Williams, founder of Mount Carmel Schools, was buried with a prayer service attended virtually by hundreds of current and past students. “At 83, my father was perhaps the oldest service principal of a minority school in the city. We were getting ready to celebrate 50 years of our schools this July, and over the years, he has overseen around 30,000 alumni, which is a huge number of children who have contributed to nation building. He came to education after 12 years in the Air Force and brought both an empirical sense of discipline and a child-centred vision to education,” said Michael Williams, Dean Mount Carmel Schools and son of V K Williams.

Schools have been informing their communities about deaths through online messages of grieving. The management of GD Goenka Signature School, Sohna notified students and parents about the death of principal Ritu Pathak through their website. Similarly, the website of St Xavier’s School, Raj Niwas Marg notified its community of the death of long-time educator, vice-principal K J Devasia.

“He was responding well to treatment for Covid and was stable till the oxygen in his North Delhi hospital ran out on Sunday evening, even as other hospitals said they had no beds and no oxygen… He was an extremely popular teacher and administrator and was also the school’s link with the alumni, which supports many students in the school with scholarships,” said Prasanto Kumar Roy, an active member of the school’s alumni network.

Government school teachers are also grappling with the loss of their colleagues with new notifications on the deaths.

“Every day we are finding out about six or seven deaths. It’s a very disorienting time because it is vacation time and we are not in touch with our students at all, while we are on different kinds of duty — from evaluation to duty at crematoriums, airports and oxygen refill centres. I don’t even know if the children know about the losses, it is a disconnected time,” said Sant Ram of the Government School Teachers’ Association.

Ajay Arora, a teacher at a government school in Ashok Nagar, lost his brother V K Arora, who taught commerce at a government school in Mansarovar Park. “He had taught for 28 years in the education department and was a very active part of the teachers’ community. It’s very strange to feel so alone after all these years. We were not even able to get a bed in Delhi and were only able to admit him at AIIMS Jhajjar… We have received condolence messages from teacher colleagues but we have not spoken to any of his students. We will hold a virtual prayer meeting,” said Arora.

Arjun Singh, a TGT social sciences teacher in a government school in Jafrabad, also lost his battle to Covid-19 last week. “It was very sad that we were unable to get a bed for him in Delhi at all, and I had to have him transported to Dehradun in an ambulance. Even after teaching for more than 25 years, he would still study in front of me to stay up to date and in touch with his classes,” said his son, Pranav.

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