Of professional dignity and minimum wage: The plight of teachers in Meghalaya

Of professional dignity and minimum wage: The plight of teachers in Meghalaya

By Ibankyntiew Mawrie

"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." ~ Henry Brooks Adams

There is a saying that one book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world. And if you ask me, I would say teaching is the toughest yet noblest profession. Their role is as imperative as that of a policy maker because both hold the key of shaping the future and this is why former President APJ Abdul Kalam had once rightly noted that teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, caliber, and future of an individual.

But over the past few years, this profession seems to be heading towards an uncertain end. Thanks to misplaced priorities and wrong policies!

While the status of teachers in countries like China can be ranked as equal to that of a doctor, in India, teachers are often considered as Civil Servants but 'the package and respect' is not quite like that of an IAS officer who also happens to be a Civil Servant.

Forget the rest of India, if we look at the status of teachers in Meghalaya, it is sad to say that though the government acknowledges the fact that a teacher plays an important role in society, their well-being on the other hand is completely ignored.

Delays in salary disbursement, exclusion from 5th pay commission, categorizing the profession into so many other sub-categories (separate pay structure for each category) are just few examples of how a teacher struggles to make both ends meet.

Every year, we see teachers' associations be it the college, adhoc, deficit or SSA teachers hitting the streets to demand what they are owed because the system is such that unless, we protest, the government won't budge from its comfort zone. Or so it seems!

With the onset of the festive season, it all the more depressing for teachers who are excluded from all the perks and benefits that every so called 'Civil Servant' enjoys and worst, it looks like it will be a 'Blue Christmas' for the SSA teachers of Meghalaya who have, for the past many months demanded the government to release their pending salaries.

According to the President of Meghalaya SSA School Association-Central Body Aristotle C Rymbai, only one month's salary was released recently but according to inputs that we have received, it was informed that the government is in the process of release the pending salary.

"I am not sure we are going to get the pending salary before Christmas but hopefully before New Year. The association will meet again on Dec 22 to discuss further on the matter," Rymbai said.

Other than the SSA teachers, the deficit teachers too have been running from pillar to post to enquire about the outcome of their meeting with the government regarding their inclusion in the 5th Pay Commission, of which the government had declared that deficit teachers will not be included.

During the recently concluded Winter Session of the Meghalaya Legislative Assembly, UDP leader and Shillong West MLA Paul Lyngdoh moved a special motion in the floor of the house on the challenges faced by school teachers especially SSA, adhoc and deficit teachers.

Lyngdoh had said the government needs to the problems faced by the teachers more seriously and should away with the method of categorising them into different levels like deficit, adhoc, deficit pattern and others and that their payment structure should be the same for everyone as they all does the same job – that is imparting education.

It is said that teachers are our second parents, they care for us, they shape our character, and they motivate us, encourage us and uplift us. But the question arises: Who is looking after them?

The time is right for the government to restore professional dignity and help improve the status of teachers in society.

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The writer can be reached at iban@thenortheasttoday.com and mawrie.iban@gmail.com

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