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Amid Covid-19, The Plight of Contractual Lecturers and Private School Teachers

Amid Covid-19, The Plight of Contractual Lecturers and Private School Teachers
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Director School Education Kashmir must look into the matter at the earliest to redress their long pending genuine demands so that they can live a dignified life in our society

By Dr. Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie
Teachers are considered to be the nation builders and are shaping the world by imparting education to the students with their deep knowledge and guide them towards the noble deeds and above all the moral values of life. Teachers have a vital role because future of a country is totally in their hands. Teachers train students with leadership qualities so that they can lead the country. They deserve a dignified position in the society. Therefore, it is duty of the State to ensure decent wages and fair service conditions to the teachers working in the private schools. However the existing laws in our state are not adequate to provide fair wages and the government has never shown any attention to solve their problems. The government has not even listened to the woes of those contractual lecturers and hence since decades like private sector, the government also exploited this highly qualified human resource and they continue to live a miserable life.
However unfortunately from current academic session the process of recruiting these qualified youth in the higher secondary schools have been discontinued. Therefore such a move on part of the government have not only rendered thousands of youth unemployed but has put a question mark on the on the state.
The contractual teachers and lecturers in school education department are facing tremendous problems. Every year the department is inviting applications from eligible candidates for contractual lecturers for higher secondary schools. These candidates are subject to appear in screening test and those who qualify such test are engaged as contractual lecturers in the department for an academic arrangement. These highly qualified candidates are not only underpaid but are disengaged every year soon after the academic session is over. Thus they are treated just like as the casual labourers. However unfortunately from current academic session the process of recruiting these qualified youth in the higher secondary schools have been discontinued. Therefore such a move on part of the government have not only rendered thousands of youth unemployed but has put a question mark on the on the state.
Apart from contractual lecturers the position of teachers working in different private schools is not different. They are not only underpaid but are facing authoritarianism. They have no job security despite the fact they are working with utmost dedication. It may be gauged from the fact that at a time when whole world is fighting the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic recently a leading school in the Srinagar city has disengaged twenty teachers who refused to use the Zoom application for online teaching following the reports by national and international media that the use of Zoom application is prone to hackers. Following these reports few weeks back Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India has also issued an advisory for its officials not to use this application. The application has been already banned in a number of countries citing their privacy issues. But the Srinagar based school sent termination letters to the teachers which reads, “you have explicitly expressed your non availability to join e-classes which is the need of the hour. Your letter of dissent to take the e-classes is enclosed herewith. Consequent upon your dissent, which tantamount the blatant disregard and disrespect of the school rules and regulations, the Management has decided not to extent your probation”. The other schools have also cited the same reason to disengage the teachers and the schools have also withheld their salaries in these tough times. Ideally the teachers should have been given an opportunity to explain by the school management and there is no justification by these schools to disengage teachers right away. One fails to understand whether there is any existing rule about the probation period for the teacher engaged in private schools. The termination of services by these Schools comes a few days after PM Modi, in his country-wide address, urged organisations not to fire their employees and treat them well. Earlier the Jammu & Kashmir Labour Commissioner had already issued an advisory to all employers of public/private shops, establishments, industrial establishments, factories, mining projects and contractors etc in the union territory shall extend their cooperation by not terminating their casual or contractual employees from job or reduce their wages who go on leave in wake of the fast spreading pandemic Coronavirus.
There are thousands of teachers who are working in these schools although we don’t have the actual figures about the teachers employed by these private schools. In absence of any union of these they suffer more exploitation. A well organized union is a must for them which will definitely work well in the interests of these teachers.
As per statistical data available on the official website of director school education Kashmir there are 2386 recognised private schools in the valley and also besides these there are scores of schools who have applied for recognition and some have been shown as unrecognized schools. There are thousands of teachers who are working in these schools although we don’t have the actual figures about the teachers employed by these private schools. In absence of any union of these they suffer more exploitation. A well organized union is a must for them which will definitely work well in the interests of these teachers. However there are no existing laws which could fix their issues. There are numerous problems faced by these teachers which include the low wages, lack of job security, inhuman and overburdened workload with a bad working condition. Privately owned schools in Kashmir are usually in the news for charging high tuition fees and fleecing parents, but rarely any attention is paid to the plight of the abysmally low-paid teachers they employ. There are reports that most of the schools the salary of a teacher is as low as Rs 4000 to 5000. It is a situation which needs an immediate attention from the School Education department and other concerned authorities. This is not the first time that private educational institutions are in news but due to the official apathy no strict action has been taken so far against them. This might be because of the fact that these schools are run by influential people who always flout laws.
There are a number of court judgments which have grilled the educational institutions from time to time. In 2016, in a judgment Himachal Pradesh High Court ruled that Private educational institutions can not be allowed to create business empires and made highly critical remarks about the institution to the effect that these institutions are no less than the commercial shops.
The other side of the story is that the female teachers working in these schools face much worse exploitation than their male counterparts.
This Covid-19 pandemic has already made it evident that our misplaced priories and inability to develop our healthcare sector has now put the lives of doctors and citizens at risk. The attention towards the private education sector has also been ignored by successive governments, which is why many teachers today are facing a severe predicament. The plight of these schools teachers must be heard and resolved by the government because denying the fair wages to these teachers is the violation of Article 14. The other side of the story is that the female teachers working in these schools face much worse exploitation than their male counterparts. If the state fails to do so then in the coming months not only teachers will become unemployed and a burden on our society but millions of students will also face the risk of being deprived of receiving education.
However every problem has a solution and government must look into the plight of the teachers in private schools about the salary and their working conditions and if the salary of any teacher in the school is not being paid to him / her in accordance with the terms then under the Right to Education Act 2009, the recognition granted to a school must be cancelled. If at any time it is found that a private school is not functioning as an efficient unit in the educational system of the state or has fallen into mismanagement or if the authorities of the school have been guilty of any serious contravention of the Rules, the recognition and the sanction accorded for the opening of the school may be withdrawn and the school closed down after reasonable notice. These schools must implement a pay scale instead of a minimum salary and the scales of pay a must be applicable to each designation of the teaching and the non-teaching staff as well. Therefore in order to bring a transparency the school management should not only pay reasonable salary to all the teachers but the salary should be credited in their accounts on the analogy of government employees. In order to ensure the proper implementation of all the rules prescribed in the Act by the respective schools.
Therefore to come up with all these issues Right to Education Act 2009 is the best remedial which strictly regulates private schools about the recruitment of teachers and their salary and all other issues but unfortunately previous regimes in the state have failed to pass this important Act in the assembly reasons best known to them but after the abrogation of Article 370 nobody is talking whether this act has been implemented in the state or not. 
The Rule 20 (1) of the Right to Education Act prescribed that the appropriate government has the authority to fix   terms and conditions of service of teachers and staff which includes the salary, allowances and all other service benefits payable to them including pension. Rule 20 (3) specifically states that about their pay and allowances, medical facilities, pension, gratuity, provident fund etc., In order to ensure the proper implementation of all the rules prescribed in the Act by the respective schools a certificate to this effect should be obtained from them to have abided the rules of the Act.
Therefore to come up with all these issues Right to Education Act 2009 is the best remedial which strictly regulates private schools about the recruitment of teachers and their salary and all other issues but unfortunately previous regimes in the state have failed to pass this important Act in the assembly reasons best known to them but after the abrogation of Article 370 nobody is talking whether this act has been implemented in the state or not. If yes then why government is not paying any heed to the arbitrary fee hike by these private enterprises and why the hardships of these dedicated teachers have remained unheard despite a sufficient reportage in both print and electronic media. Now without wasting further time the Director School Education Kashmir must look into the matter at the earliest to redress their long pending genuine demands so that they can live a dignified life in our society.
Dr. Reyaz Ahmad Ganaie has done Ph.D from Pondicherry Central University. He can be mailed at reyazganaie@gmail.com
Disclaimer: Views expressed is author’s own and do not reflect the stand or policy of Oracle Opinions

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