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Teachers on the streets

It has become a ritual for teachers to agitate and boycott Teachers’ Day celebrations nearly every year because their grievances are not addressed. And those grievances relate to non-payment of salaries. In the case of Deficit School Teachers the problem has always been that Government sanctions their salaries once in 3-4 months, hence their salaries are always in arrears. But this should not have been the case. Schools that are absorbed by the Government under the Deficit System of Grant-in-Aid are told specifically that they should have adequate corpus funds to pay their teachers for at least three months. This would then be defrayed by the Government. Most Deficit Schools don’t meet this requirement and rely entirely on Government.

This time a section of teachers under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) are in protest mode on Teachers Day. This despite knowing that the funds supposed to come from the Central Government are yet to arrive and the State Government does not have the capacity to defray the cost and pay salaries to this huge chunk of teachers. Interestingly other Association of SSA teachers have decided to wait it out rather than agitate, which is a mature decision.

Education Minister Lahkmen Rymbui was very frank in his address to teachers on the occasion of Teachers’ Day. He pointed to the poor educational outcomes in Government Schools which in turn pushes parents to send their kids to private schools despite the prohibitive school fees. Rymbui has tracked the reasons for the poor performance of students in government schools. He has found that teachers with a job in rural Meghalaya commute all the way from Shillong and back. Hence by the time they arrive at the school they are tired and listless and can hardly have the emery to teach. No wonder the learning outcomes are so poor.

It is interesting to note that each time teachers go on strike it is for their own welfare and not on account of the syllabi or the poor quality of text books or even to ask for a better teaching –learning materials. If the Government is spending 95% of its budget for paying teachers’ salaries then it is right to expect better outcomes. The SSA was intended to universalise elementary education in a time bound manner so that no child remains out of school. This is a huge challenge in Meghalaya but the effort is on.

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