By Gowher Ahmad Bhat
TOO often, as the government fails to accommodate all into the government sector, educated youth throng the private sector. In Jammu and Kashmir, one of the largest private sector employers are the private schools. Thousands of teachers are working in these schools. Every school tries to hire those among the best qualified youth to make the teaching learning process in their institutions a success, They look for teachers who will cater and mutate according to the modern trends in the education sector and address the challenges of the ever growing competition. They look for those teachers who will satiate the knowledge thirst of the modern day students.
However, their quest is too often unethical. Job advertisements in Private schools are a symbolic fest that often tell the story in a glance. The “Qualifications” and “Experience” column against each teaching opening is written in bold letters, whereas, the “Salary” column is left ambiguous with an apparently generous “Pay is Negotiable”. Honestly, the Ad reads like a PR of the school, hiring only the best. However, for the wise, it is a manifesto of exploitation.
All of us know the untold story of this “negotiable pay”. The teachers have to undergo rounds of interviews and have to take oaths to follow terms and conditions of the institution to the T. However, god forbid, if the aspirant wants to discuss the specifics of the salary arrangement! They are told that they shall be put on probation for a month or more for a meager salary, until they prove their worth. A “suitable” salary is promised afterwards.
What is the suitable pay for a teacher who is to join a private school? A skilled labour earns at least Rs 25000-30000 per month and a non skilled labour earns a monthly sum of Rs 15000- 20000.Skilled labours who have their own machinery and equipment earn more than the already stated figures. It is a known fact that the salary in most of the private schools does not even touch Rs 15000. There are many private schools where the salary of teachers is below Rs 5000. Many reputed schools are paying a salary to their teachers that puts a question mark on their name and fame. Despite having huge earnings and emptying the pockets of parents they pay only peanuts to the teachers. These helpless teachers neither have the provision of yearly increments nor are they provided any considerable hike on account of good performance. It is a sisyphean loop of hard work for empty appreciation. If anyone objects, they’re deemed disposable and dismissed at the first instance of protest.
Behind every educated and qualified youth there is the blood, sweat and tears of their family. In lower middle class and middle class families, education is considered an investment. It is expected that a saviour is nurtured through quality education, who would grow on to shoulder the burden of the family at the time of need. This is especially true if the family is poor.
However, with all the education, when some end up working in private schools as teachers, they cannot even afford medicines for their ailing parents. Contributing for groceries or spending on personal expenses is a luxury they can’t afford. Imagine the plight of turning up all brushed up with knowledge, in well creased clothes. Can they even afford these in the first place? Can they even afford the technology that they’re required to be familiar with and teach? These are all dusted under the carpet as “asking-for-too-much” demands. A private school teacher can’t even take the liberties to buy resources for the teaching-learning process. Apparently, their “passion” and “dedication” should pay the school supplies shop.
As though things weren’t already worse, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the condition of Private school teachers got worse. Many private school teachers were not paid their salaries for months without any consideration. They were pushed to starvation. The hardships faced by a private school teacher were evident from a video that went viral on social media. The teacher in the video was walking by foot when a cab driver offered him a lift. It is then that he narrated his ordeal to the cab driver and stated that he had visited the school where he works for the very purpose of getting salary but to no avail. His condition was such that he had hoped to pay for a ride back to his home through the salary that never came. This is not the ordeal of only one helpless and poor private school teacher but a tale of almost all private school teachers.
The paying of low salary to the teachers puts a question mark on the very functioning of private schools. It rips apart the minimum wages guarantee act (MWGA). It is an exploitation of the asset of educated youth who are the life of successful nations. It is an insult to our education system. It is a joke on the literacy mission and its advocates. It falsifies the very purpose of imparting a sincere education.
The School Education Department and the Labour Department should come to the rescue of private school teachers and frame rules and regulations that will govern the basis of hiring of teachers by the private school owners. A salary fixation committee for private school teachers should be constituted and a respectable salary to be paid to private school teachers should be fixed. There should be a provision for a suitable and respectable yearly increment for the PST. A grievance redressal cell should also be put into place to look into the complaints logged by the private school teachers.
Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- The author is a Teacher and a Core Member of JKGLTF
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.