ByÂ Mahitha Kasireddi:
It would be nothing different from regular ranting to say that education is business these days, a business which never falls out due to any economic reasons. Chetan Baghat’s Revolution 2020 was not just another story but a screaming reality which parents and children often refuse to acknowledge. When we were under the illusion that the concept of commercializing education is limited only up to coaching centers, Engineering and Medical colleges, even schools have been ingested into the ‘education industry’. There is no capitalization without exploitation and here the pathetic part of the story is that the heart of educational institutions, the teachers are being meted out an at most unfair treatment. Gone are the days when teachers were placed next to god and held in high regard.
The 6th pay commission which was reported in 2008 has sanctioned a hike in salaries for all teachers. This order comes to effect from 1st June 2006. This move came after teachers complained of gross underpayment of salaries. By this commission, every school’s management is bound to pay the arrears from June 2006 to September 2008, 40% of the arrears were to be paid in the current fiscal year and the remaining 60% in the next year. Those who complete above six months of service are eligible for yearly increment. Additionally, they are eligible for various allowances and benefits. But, most schools do not comply with the rules, the teachers are denied of their right payment. In 2012 a group of 48 teachers from Delhi had filed a petition. An order was issued seeking replies from the Directorate of Education and the private schools which failed to implement the new commission. Failure to implement the 6th pay commission stands for violation of Articles 14, 16, 21 and 38 of the Constitution of India and contrary to Section 10 of Delhi School Education Act, 1973 which is often called ‘Bible for teachers’.
The corporate style of running public schools has taken a route to total disregard for the noble profession of teaching and the sanctity of education has been marred by monetary ambitions. The basic benevolent thought of shaping the future of the country in classrooms has been underplayed. The new mantra is digitalized air conditioned classrooms with CCTV cameras installed for observation. . Their every move is kept under surveillance. The teachers aren’t supposed to reprimand the students, aren’t supposed to sit or take the support of any bench to lean over for a while and god forbid if they are seen sitting, they are rebuked formally then and there in front of the children without any thought for the reputation of the teacher nor respect for her knowledge. With the schedule of around 8 to 9 periods and hardly a break for 30 minutes they are forced to stand all day and manage a class of 50 to 60 students. The plight of primary section teachers is unimaginable. They toil hour by hour in engaging the children in the subject.
There is one such area called Rohini Sub City in the north west of Delhi which is a hub of unaided private public schools. There are roughly around 45 CBSE affiliated public schools that occupy large acres of land and hire around 115 teachers. Most of them do not implement the recommendations of the 6th pay commission. The teachers are denied of their rightful payment and government benefits, not granted proper leaves and virtually treated as daily wagers. The management authority of these schools are obviously powerful people who foster alliances with politicians and bureaucrats in running the schools. The wronged teachers are subjugated from raising voice against them, yet one teacher turned a whistle-blower in exposing the unjust. Being the sole-bread winner of her family she could not let her story dwell in the dark.
Mrs. Jaya (name changed), BSc, B.Ed. has been working as a science teacher for 5th standards in one such public school located in Rohini, Delhi. She has been teaching there since 1999 and shares a very special bond with the school. She is also the cultural coordinator of the school, a script writer who has authored number of prize winning plays. She had also bagged the Best Teacher Award three times in her 14 year career at the school. The school started off with just a few rooms in a building and today it stands in a vast area of land, has air-conditioned classrooms and owns at least 12-13 personal buses. The land was acquired for throw away prices by the then government in order to subsidize for the benevolent cause of providing education. Mrs. Jaya had joined initially for a meager payment of Rs.3500. The school had never issued any appointment letters to the teachers; they were hired in an ad hoc manner. They paid salaries in cash initially; after a few teachers had agitated against the arbitrary practices of the school they started issuing cheques. In 2002, the school got recognized and affiliated to CBSE. In 2008, the 6th pay commission was released which was to effect from 2006. The school hadn’t paid the due arrears to any of the teachers. Mrs. Jaya and other teachers were issued a cheque of Rs.28,663 every month, but were asked to deposit back Rs. 6000 (in cash) at the office, so they could avail only Rs. 22,663. In turn they weren’t issued any receipt. None of the teachers raised any questions as for most of them it was a matter of livelihood. The school management took signatures of teachers on blank cheques in the pretext of paying their arrears. Everything seems to be very ambiguous, the records they maintained and their method payment.
Though there was no transparency, things went by normally with Mrs. Jaya’s career only until she was struck by a medical emergency. She had to undergo knee replacement surgery for both her legs. An average middle class teacher who single handedly runs a family of four found it impossible to arrange Rs. 1, 50,000 all of a sudden. It was then she asked for the arrears and questioned about the six thousand rupees they were depositing in school for no reason. She wasn’t granted any sick leave, yet she underwent her right knee surgery on 1st March 2013. The very next day while she was still kept in the ICU, the accountant of the school called her up for the Rs. 6000 deposit for the month of March. Her son went to deposit the amount in the school. This extreme insensitiveness meted out to her had enraged her from within. A very old faculty of the school who had witnessed the school built from scratch was shown absolutely no gesture of humanity during her tough times.
She rejoined the school on 25th June 2013, but to her surprise she could not find her name in the register, she wasn’t allowed to enter. The principal was out of station. Mrs. Jaya immediately consulted a lawyer who advised her to message the principal and the Managing Director of the school, but she did not receive any reply. She had written to the Directorate of Education who called her for a mutual talk in the school. The school management says the teacher has no proof of depositing any amount with school and dismissed her plea to allow her to work in the school; they still have her original certificates. They would make sure she will not get a job in other school, she calls it the private public schools mafia. It was then she decided to file a case in the High Court against the school management. None of her colleagues, not even her best friend had come forward to support. The school displayed their records to the court which show she had joined since 2006, unfortunately she has no material to substantiate that she worked there since 1999. She got a stay from the High Court which allowed her to continue working in the school till the case is resolved.
On 3rd July 2013, Mrs. Jaya went back to school. Post-surgery, there was a three inch difference in the length of her legs due to which she had a problem while walking. The doctor has strictly advised her not to take stairs or stand for long hours. The school management had started torturing the teacher physically and mentally. She was allotted to a much lower section, the 1st standards where she had no experience. She was not given a chair to sit and her assistant teacher was instructed not to help her in anyway. The student coordinator often came and interrupted her classes, rebuked her for not being able to handle the class. She was socially boycotted, none of the other teachers spoke to her so that she got no advice or help from anyone in dealing with the new section. She was repeatedly made to go up and down to the 3rd floor and ground floor on the pretext of some paper work. At one point she was forced to choose between fighting for justice and retaining her source of livelihood, she was ready to compromise and agreed to withdraw the case from the court. But, this settlement did not last for long. The school had asked to give a written apology. On consulting her lawyer, Mrs. Jaya learnt that nothing should be given in written as they would use it to throw her out after 2-3 months and file a case against her on the grounds of defamation. She is now firm on fighting the case. She managed to finance for her left leg surgery by pledging her jewelry on 9th October, 2013, she is recovering well, but feels very intimidated to go back to school.
Mrs. Jaya is 49-years-old and wishes to continue teaching for another 10 years, her passion has no limit, she wants her career back with all dignity and respect. The case is in the High Court, and could go on for years now. The problem is a serious one because it would end up as an internal matter of the school on how they conduct things. Private schools have always advocated their dissatisfaction in government interference regarding fixation of salaries. The CBSE board has passed a directorate asking schools to share information such as fee structure, staff salary and other details online. The Directorate of Education shall conduct inspections, check the non-implementation of 6th pay commission and derecognize such schools upon failing to abide by rules. The absolute irresponsibility displayed by the school and their non-hesitant attitude in running a school like a corporate house is condemnable and should be dealt with restrain and regulation.