Frozen Recruitment and Derailment of Ambitions

For representational purposes only

By Shahnawaz Ahmad

THE December of 2018 was not all about snowflakes, icicles and the bone chilling chilla-i-kalan. It brought with itself, what later came as a rude shock to the competent youth of Jammu and Kashmir who had invested their time, money and energy to secure their ambitions of contributing to the nation’s talented workforce in the education sector. This was the time when Satya Pal Malik; the last governor of erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir who is popularly known for his “Fax machine hoodwink” that hit the thriller packed 2018 political discourse of J&K, passed an order that quietly axed to death the dreams and ambitions of youth aiming to contribute in education sector as teachers and lecturers.

Background

In December of 2018, the then State Administrative Council, popularly known as SAC and headed by Satya Pal Malik, passed an order that approved the earlier action plan (which was recommended by a committee) , in what it termed to streamline the issues of already regularised teachers in state education department. The order number 1263 GAD of 2018; Dated 13-08-2018 was approved to address the “grievances and immense difficulties” and “a host of other issues” faced by teachers which; according to the order, were directly or indirectly “impacting upon quality education” in government run schools.

The said order besides giving a “host of concessions and exceptions” paved way for hassle and competition free transition of already regularized Rehbar-e-Taleem (RReTs) teachers, besides creating a prized & separate level 5 cadre for their absorption; with 10+2 being the bare minimum criteria for such transition.

Besides the “arbitrary” concessions and exceptions, the order “froze” direct recruitment of teachers and lecturers through recruiting agencies with effect from December 2018 leading to dejection and dissatisfaction among deserving and competent teacher aspirants.

Ordered Injustice

Just a keen but unbiased read will tell how arbitrary and unjust the SAC order of 2018 is; all in its structure, existence and approval. The first argument is that by selectively closing doors for carrying out direct recruitment exercises of teachers and lecturers, the order has deprived the eligible aspirants who have necessary qualifications from their fundamental right to equality guaranteed under Article 16 (1) to participate in matters related to public employment. The SAC’s decision to twist and turn the rules of recruitment was to suit the agenda of the executive and hide its failure to frame a comprehensive absorption policy for regularized RReTs and teachers appointed under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan, while at the same time keeping the doors for direct recruitment open. It had to be done according to a 50:50 ratio. By virtue of these concessions and relaxations, the then governor administration extended an olive branch to regularized RReT’s and SSA teachers but at the cost of disempowerment of thousands of youth who possess requisite qualifications and a considerable number amongst them having cleared national level eligibility exams like UGC/CSIR NET.

It should never be misconstrued that the aspirants pressing for revocation of the said order are per se against the regularization and cadre allocation to RReTs and SSA teachers but to freeze the entire direct recruitment process and hold hostage the degrees and hard work put in by thousands of deserving candidates, is something that will not be acceptable to tenets of transparency and justice in any sane society. It has given a widespread impression that merit and wilful intention to participate in completion are kept at back burner. Every year a considerable number of students pass teaching specific degrees viz, bachelors and masters degrees in Education (B.Ed and M.Ed) from recognized universities and their affiliated colleges but these degrees have now been rendered useless. The freezing of teacher recruitment has defeated the very purpose of these “professional” degrees.

On the contrary, how bizarre does it sound when the SAC order of 2018 says that it will “encourage” the 7706 RReT and SSA teachers who DO NOT possess the “requisite qualifications” to acquire the same within time frame so as to “upscale” them as regular teachers? To put it simply, either those 7706 undergraduate teachers have to take one time study leave or pursue their degrees through distance mode or in a phased manner just to meet the eligibility criteria; forget about advanced specialization. In any of the cases, the already strained education sector reeling under staff shortage will have to bear the burnt of this exercise. Moreover, to talk of “stipulated time frame”, it will be at least a decade before we see the undergraduates numbering 7706 passing out as simple graduates.

It won’t be unjust to call out the then authorities at the helm of affairs for making highly qualified and educated youth scapegoats because of their failure and gross inability to chalk out a strategy to streamline the regularization process of ReTs in consonance with the principles of natural justice. Teachers engaged as ReTs have always been at loggerheads with successive governments in the erstwhile state mostly over issues of regularization. Those issues are quite debatable but were never left at the disposal of best brains to decide their right and wrong sides. When SAC found nothing, it came up with the unjust order devoid of logic and justice.

Perception versus Reality – The Debate Continues

Three years have passed since the SAC order of 2018 came into force. “This initiative has been taken in the larger interest of teaching community and purely as a welfare measure”, read the order. If “teacher welfare” was supposed to be the only resultant purpose for implementation of the said order, then it will be correct to say that the order has served its purpose. But, in a welfare state like the one we are living in, the ultimate purpose of reformative measures taken in education sector should be student centered rather than being reduced to mere profit and loss mathematics vis a vis the employees and their employers.

Strictly speaking through a student centered perspective, the very purpose of the order where it claims to ensure (and streamline) quality education in government run schools has not been fulfilled. This claim can be validated from the fact that there is a dwindling trend of student population in government run schools that even prompted the authorities to call for immediate action against those responsible for it. The “devastating decline” in student enrollment has not only brought disrepute to the education department but has also defeated the basic purpose for which teacher centric welfare measures were taken. In 2019-2020 academic session only, the number of students in government elementary schools drastically fell by 1.75 lakh; a number that is enough to bust the myth of those who claim otherwise. The retention rate was just 84% at primary level, 64% at elementary level and 50% at secondary level.

Even government ordered merging of almost 700 schools reeling under disproportionate student enrollment and almost recording zero or meagre enrollment. It remains quite debatable if merging of schools will actually translate to something productive. The preliminary observations suggest otherwise. Moreover, for dismal performance who should be held accountable – the ball continues to swing between authorities and teachers.

But, with much to perceive, for a common man, It is no rocket science when one tries to ascertain the reason behind these drastically low enrollment rates in elementary government schools most of which are in rural pockets where the very objective of creation of ReT cadre was to ensure universal access to students. Sadly, Satya Pal Malik did not bother to devise a roadmap on who is to be blamed?

The fate of private B.Ed colleges and why no one bats an eye?

If one thinks that it is only government run schools which are reeling under disproportionate enrollment ratios, then he/she is absolutely mistaken and has very fragmented idea on what SAC order of 2018 has done to private B. Ed colleges of Jammu and Kashmir. Once blooming with “more than sufficient” enrollment ratios, the B. Ed colleges of JKUT are now high and dry since there are very less takers for this course. Analysts believe that apart from extended course duration , the unjust SAC order of 2018 is to be blamed for bringing to grinding halt the otherwise busy classwork in B.Ed colleges.

The genuine hesitancy of graduates to opt for B.Ed is a result of the fact that in a condition where teacher recruitment stands frozen, the professional teacher training courses have lost relevance. Except for teaching, where does afterall a teacher training course hold its utility.

The diminishing enrollment figures are disappointing to the extent that compared to earlier 500 students, the average enrollment in private B.Ed colleges now stands at 40 students only. The immediate fallout of disproportionate enrollment has led to job cuts in private run B.Ed colleges as a considerable chunk of staff has been laid off due to acute financial crunch.

In backdrop of this uncertainty almost 20 private B.Ed colleges have closed their operations sine die. The fate of their employees and employers; nobody knows?

Conclusion

The controversial SAC order of 2018 enjoys popular mandate from the teaching community, particularly from those who have been given the extended olive branch but popular morality and views of the majority do not dictate the constitutional rights. The injustice committed to hardworking, deserving and competent youth through execution of this unjust executive order is something that needs to be corrected without further delay. Like it was done, it can be undone too and there should be no hesitancy. To secure the future of those who believe in the tenets of welfare state viz, justice and equality; the lieutenant governors administration needs to reconsider and review the controversial SAC order much to the benefit and hopes of those who aspire to be future caretakers of education sector. By not giving the promising youth a chance to serve in their best capabilities, the then governors administration has self deflated its claim of being youth centric.

A welcome step would be to restore the earlier status quo of filling 50% vacancies through direct recruitment. This will ensure retaining the brain trust of the erstwhile state that had future of its fence sitters marred by nothing except violence & politics of failure.


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 student of politics and education. He writes on issues of politics, education, peace, conflict and science. Feedback [email protected]

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