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By Mayborn Lyngdoh R | SHILLONG | Sept 05, 2020:
I would like to apologise, for some of you will not be able to digest the truth, while some of you will concur with the statement put forward.
"Every single year, 5th September is celebrated as Teachers' Day to commemorate the birthday of the country's former President, scholar, philosopher, and Bharat Ratna awardee, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan who was born on this day in 1888. . . Teachers are the backbone of society. . . without teachers, society and the country will fall. . ." is the same age-old façade of a dialogue that resounds from the mouths of every Minister and MLAs now sounds like a mockery and an insult to the profession because they cannot and do not know how to treat and value us.
Teachers are the highest and the worst paid lot in the country. The percentage of highest-paid is esoteric, but we can understand. Those are years of hard work, grit and determination. Well-deserved! But, most teachers, particularly the school teachers –
Private, SSA, Ad-Hoc, (excluding the Government and Deficit) are the most underrated, horrifyingly neglected, and the least paid. It is shameful and disrespectful that teachers have to throng the streets time and again with placards in protest for their salaries that are being hoarded for months by the Government. They make us look like beggars.
From the logic of the Government's perspective, most teachers are supposed to have no family, be dependent on someone, if not beg till they release the salary. And if no one is generous enough to offer the support, we may as well starve and die. But that's okay, we are teachers, we're made to be the sacrificial lamb.
On the 28th of August, 2019, Union Minister Ramadas Athawale visited Shillong, along with the Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Conrad Sangma to address the All Meghalaya Ad-Hoc teachers Association at Madan Malki, and put forward the different logical demands including the inclusion of one clerk in the school as it is a burden on the teaching staff. The Chief Minister promised a meeting in December later that year and yet it is yet to see the light of day.
I am beginning to comprehend that every single promise made by the Government is satirical and sarcastic.
The Lob-sided Affair:
While some Government Schools have nine teachers for one student; private, and government-aided have one teacher for 200 or more students. Early last year, I was at a training where I met fellow teachers from Government schools. The teacher shared with me the comical experience of how they would call the lone student in that school of the Higher Secondary section now and then to inquire whether he was coming to school or not, and if the reply was in the negative, it's a vacation for them. "Time to go Fishing". On hearing the horrific tale, I dared to boldly ask the said teacher, "How much do you guys earn then?" the answer was not very clear, but I understood, it was between Rs. 70000 – 90,000. On an average, the government is spending an approximate of seven lakhs on teachers for one student, while the spending on the Government-aided concerning the student-teacher ratio is derogatory because we have to beg every single time.
The problem at the nip of the bud lies in teachers and fellow teachers who are content as long as their interest is fulfilled. Right from the top of the hierarchy to the bottom, it is ironic how teachers take pride in being compartmentalised because that makes them comfortable in their own little pockets. They take pride in the name-tag that they were given despite knowing the brutal truth that some teachers, with the same qualifications or more qualified, the same experience or more, have to make ends meet with a meagre amount just because they are not lucky enough to fall under the same category as them.
What boggles and bothers me the most is that the All Meghalaya Domestic Workers' Association were able to work together as one, recommend rates for the fellow workers – part-time, full-time and live-in (those staying in the house of the employers). The crux of the matter is that the Domestic Workers' Association were able to put the proposed 'Rates' into action, while the learned teachers are not able to work together as a team to cater to each other's well-being. It is regretful to state that some teachers and institutions are also the greatest abusers of their fellow teachers when they are presented with an opportunity.
Substitute teachers are not even taken into the picture for consideration. Most substitute teachers are paid by the day – Rs 100 – 300 in most schools particularly in Shillong by teachers with Deficit and Ad-Hoc grant pay. If it was for a week, it's quite understandable, but when the period prolongs for months, the substitute teacher has to completely adorn the shoes, that's disgraceful and heartless. How can one enjoy the fruits of 80% of the salary while sitting at home, doing nothing, while someone else is doing everything for them? During exams, it's even worse. The bright-minded teachers took it upon themselves to deduce the logic that since a substitute teacher is needed just for the three hours of the day, they'd also reduce the amount that was initially being paid, by half. Are they prostitutes to work by the hour?
Some permanent teachers are paid a meagre amount of Rs 3000 or less. Even a coolie is now paid Rs 350 per day, while an efficient labourer is paid between Rs 450-600. Once the Deficit, Ad-hoc grant and the SSA were under the same roof, fighting for the same cause but as extra candies were shoved to a particular said group, the tag started to make more sense than the wholesome identity.
I, an Assistant Lecturer would like to propose to the All Meghalaya Teachers' Association if there is still any, to look into the plight of how much should the different teachers be paid. If the Domestic Workers can propose and implement the rates suitable for their fellow workers; I cannot understand why the educated and highly qualified teachers can't? Then there was, JACATAM – Joint Action Committee of All Teachers Association of Meghalaya. Now, there are too many self-centred clusters whom I would not want to mention. I do not want to do a comparative reading of the U Tirot Sing Syiem story yet again.
The New Normal:
It has become imminent that we all adapt and adopt new normal – At the surface level, the new normal for all the teachers is to engage in online classes, assignments, online-tests and the tardy corrections while getting paid. But for most teachers, salaries are deducted either because the school management thinks that we are not doing enough, while some parents believe that their children are not learning anything, therefore, are not paying. This is the seed that has been sowed by the shallow parents and watered by the Seng Bhalang(s). How I wish, they'd volunteer, but you see teaching does not make one rich. You even lose whatever you deserve.
What all of them are missing is that it is so much easier to teach inside a classroom. With online classes, teachers have to prepare videos, audios, make notes, convert them into pdf, respond to the students the entire day when and how they choose and respond to phone calls and personally address the issues. The new normal is taking ten to fifteen hours of our day instead of just three to six. We are chained, shackled, exhausted, drained, under-paid, yet we choose to be bounded by our passion to give the best that we can, yet most of us out there are not looked upon as doing enough. Why because you're not wearing our shoes. I wouldn't even bring to the picture the cliché problems that have already been addressed. WE ARE DOING MORE THAN ENOUGH.
Dear Ministers and leaders, do not cajole us with your sugar-coated syrup once a year. We know how good we are, words don't feed our stomachs, neither do they pay our children's tuition fees, now let us live with the dignity that we deserve. Thank you for your speech, but no thank you. Lastly, there are those teachers who have not been paid a dime and have to resort to whatever menial work, just to survive.
Happy Teachers' Day? I don't think so!
DISCLAIMER: This is a personal opinion. The opinion expressed in the article above belongs to the writer alone and TNT- The Northeast Today may not endorse the same views.