Yesterday, one of my relatives came to my home. He is a government teacher. I asked him about his salary. Before the pandemic, he always received his salary very late. He said that amidst the pandemic, his salary comes on time just after the end of the month. He is very happy. He has not had any problems related to finance. On the other side of my family, some of my relatives taught in private schools and their financial conditions are not well. They earn only enough to survive. A survey shows that 220 teachers in Hyderabad have lost 100% of their life savings. They spent all their saving for survival.
A private teacher in my neighborhood got around 8000 per month salary before the pandemic. Amidst the pandemic, he hasn’t got any type of help to survive with his family. The pandemic led him to a very bad situation. I converse with his son. His son said that the school in which his father taught is a high-cost private school. The school has its own very big building. He mentioned, “school ka maalik bahut aamir hai, fir bhi madad nhi krta hai”(the owner of this school is very rich but he doesn’t help us).
This led them to a very painful condition. He also mentioned that he also taught in a low-cost private school but amidst the pandemic, the school has closed. He doesn’t even have the little income he was earning before the pandemic
Low-cost private schools are those that help students who are preparing for competitive exams. They have little earning from this. From this, the student’s family doesn’t have any pressure or any extra burden to provide them with education. Their family has relief. They don’t have any pressure to support these students through money.
When we talk about low-cost private schools; they are not able to help their teachers. But can we expect this help from high-cost private schools or say big building schools to their teachers? In order of getting some views about this, I met a teacher who is in a high-cost private school in my town named Barbigha, in Bihar.
So, firstly he hesitates to talk about their struggles amid this pandemic. He started to talk in a very low tone and appreciated the school. He said that he doesn’t want to destroy the reputation of my school. He added, “Everything is not well here just because the government hasn’t taken any responsibility yet. I don’t have any demands but the school should be smoothly running. They have very sharp-minded people. They don’t think about us but they should”.
He also mentioned, “ I got 9000 rupees as my salary before pandemic but now I get half of this. I take my classes online. Earlier, I taught up to 7th standard but now they give me 1st or 2nd standard children to teach to. I also have standards. But in order to earn, I have to follow their rules. Even guardians haven’t talked to us gently. I have a little bit of fear but I have to accept the salary they give me. I don’t have any other option”.
This is not just about his narrative. From this, he tells us about what the whole private school teacher community is facing. He added, “hum haar jaate hain andar se, manobal tut jaata hai, fir bhi ander se himmat aata hai pariwaar ko dekh kar, bilkul dhyan nhi diya hai school hum par” (We feel like we have lost, our morale breaks but we get strength from our families. The schools have not paid any attention to us). He continued talking about his problems and then said whatever I say is less. He brings up the point of technical issues which he faces. If he says that his technical knowledge is not so good, the school will consider him to be weaker.
Because of lockdown, what female teachers face is worrying. There is so much gender gap in our society as well as in academics. And now, there is no job security. A survey from 2018-19 found that the ratio of female and male teachers is 73:100. Some days back when I was in Delhi, I tried to talk to some female teachers through one of my friends. Firstly, they are independent. They are decision-makers of their own, but now they are dependent on their family. They lost their individual freedom and financial autonomy. Their working hours also increased with household chores.
A female teacher who previously taught in a high-cost private school in my town got 4500 per month salary in their account. Now she doesn’t have any earning. In the pandemic, she taught online classes and got around 1000-2000 rupees per month. But now her cell phone needs repair and she doesn’t have the money for it. She has two children and she said that whatever she did, she did just for them. She is 23-years-old and the financial burden became important for her. Her family goes well somehow because of her husband’s salary, 5000 rupees per month.
I asked about their problems and she misunderstood it and said that yeah I can receive any type of help. She said, “aap mere Whatsapp se jud jaiye, hum aapko apna biodata bhi dikha sakte hain aur pura details bhi share kar sakte hain” (You can connect to me through WhatsApp. I will share my Bio-Data with you). From this, you can understand that how worried she is to get a job.
What can they do so that things become better? These private school teachers demand that schools should be open with certain terms and conditions. The whole private teacher community in my town made a group. They decided to talk to the DM (District Magistrate) of Sheikhpura. They marched to the DM office. After the meeting with DM, things were the same as before meeting her. One of the teachers said, “DM kah rahe hain corona sirf aap sab ke liye thode hi hai, poora desh pareshaan hai”(DM said that corona is not only for you. The whole country is in trouble).
The News Minute, a Bangalore-based news website reports about private teachers who recently turned into daily wage laborers in Telangana. Many of them are provided free ration by the government. Some of the teachers in my hometown started home tuition. Some are going to the houses of children to teach them. Although the situation of female teachers is not very because they can’t go to anyone’s house.
There are several instances where teachers were sitting under the tree or on top of the tree to just teach students in states like Bengal and Maharashtra. Teachers went beyond their limits to provide the knowledge. More than 60,000 teachers in Maharashtra and 40,000 teachers in Karnataka lost their job. Teachers are also suffering from mental health problems. There are series of frustration in their mind exist and the administration doesn’t do much more. Is there anything they can do? Does vaccination solve the problem? These teachers are front-line workers, aren’t they? What do you think?