Teachers with incapacitating illnesses – including stroke victims and those battling cancer – are being ordered to return to school and give classes.
Schools aware of these miserable situations are also under orders to comply with ‘the rules’: the teachers have to serve 30 days, covering a defined list of material, before they can qualify to have their position re-evaluated.
If they don’t, they risk being stripped of their licenses and losing pay.
Examples of these agonising scenarios are taking place a bit throughout the country.
Teachers union boss Mário Nogueira has announced at least 20 such situations this academic year, giving the example of a stroke victim who had to return to teaching “with great difficulties in talking and very difficult to understand”.
In Lagos, a reader has told us about a situation at Gil Eanes high school where a teacher with a brain aneurysm was forced back to work after being told by doctors that the slightest stress could trigger a rupture.
“The poor woman was faced with a class of 17-year-old boys on a professional course”, she told us. “Thank goodness they made a pact among themselves to keep very quiet and try and make sure they never upset her. But it was a terrible month for everyone: the school, the children and of course the poor woman.
“As soon as she had served her month, she got authorisation to go back home. The boys meantime have lost a teacher who was put in place weeks late as it was…”
The problems seem to stem from a change in the entity that decides ‘baixas’ (teachers’ mechanism for claiming sickness).
Explains Nogueira, until recently, the education ministry had its own medical boards that examined teachers.
Now responsibility has passed to medical boards at the Caixa Geral de Apostenações (the entity managing State pensions), and these boards, for reasons unclear, “have started deciding that people with prolonged illnesses should be in a position to return to work”.
“Everyone loses”, Nogueira stressed, echoing the feelings of our reader – a mother of one of the teenagers on the professional course.
Fenprof claims to have asked “several times for a meeting with those responsible at the education ministry to discuss these issues, but no one ever responds”.
The situation has now been passed to parliamentary groups and the doctors association.
Meantime, on the wider sphere, Fenprof is still locked in dispute with the government over the nine years, four months and two days in which salaries and career progressions have been ‘frozen’ (click here).
Negotiations have not been helped by the fact that teachers in the Azores and Madeira have already reached agreements with their regional governments, seeing back pay and perks re-established in a phased programme over a period of years.