On the occasion of Teachers’ Day on September 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his gratitude to teachers for “their remarkable efforts” in shaping minds and building the nation. Kumar Srivastava (name changed), a teacher from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district who has not received his salary for the last four months, however, was expecting some relief for thousands of teachers like him. The last 6-7 months have wreaked havoc on teachers – an issue that still awaits the attention of the mainstream media and the administration.
It is quite apparent that the education system has suffered a great extent due to the nationwide lockdown imposed in the wake of the global pandemic. The plight of children and parents belonging to the low socio-economic background received intense coverage as they fought challenges like unavailability of smartphones, internet connectivity and lack of money to buy data packs and, rightly so. Even the complaints and concerns of the middle and upper-middle-class families were noticed. An important component of the education ecosystem – the teachers and the challenges faced by them while adapting to this new space of interaction, however, has been skipped our attention.
Teachers’ Day is celebrated as a day to honour the Gurus who guide their pupils towards a path of light, success and happiness. Over the years, the transformation of this revered space into a profitable business has taken away the respect that these Gurus deserve. This has been further exposed during the tough pandemic times when parents and schools both started taking teachers for granted. The recognition of the Gurus has been reduced to that of a ‘working professional’ answerable for the money paid by the parents to the schools.
Lives of thousands of teachers, especially those working in private schools, were affected in this period. Suddenly, they were expected to dedicate their entire time to the students and in exchange, their salaries were reduced to almost half and in many cases, no salaries at all. Many teachers have been laid off by private schools citing reasons such as lack of funds while several private schools have discontinued their operations altogether.
Due to financial constraints created during the lockdown period, many teachers in Muzaffarpur district had to resort to taking loans on interest to ensure food for their families. Imran Ali (name changed), a teacher at a government school in the district, says that he has not received a salary for the last four months. “I have been able to feed my family only by taking ration on credit from the grocery store. It has not just caused financial constraints but has drained my entire family emotionally. My situation is exactly like those migrant workers who were all over the news for their miseries,” shared Imran who also dedicated his services when his school was used as a quarantine facility for the returning workers to the state in the initial unlock phase.
Due to the apathy of the administration, teachers are getting buried under heavy debt with no solution in sight. With their own future at stake, how can our society expect teachers to prepare the young minds to become leaders, scientists, engineers, journalists, artists of tomorrow? While some teachers like Kumar and Imran continued to serve as teachers, there are some who have been forced to quit the profession altogether. Some have started their own small grocery shops; some have found other employment opportunities. But in all this chaos, they had to let go off their careers which they were passionate about. It is about time that the concerns of teachers receive attention before it is too late!
This article has been written by Amritanj Indiwar from Muzaffarpur, Bihar for Charkha (www.charkha.org)