Classes at around 18,000 schools in Jharkhand have been stalled for over a week due to the para-teachers’ strike, affecting at least 1.5 lakh students from rural and semi-urban areas of the state, claimed the protesting teachers.
However, the state school education and literacy officials said the on-strike teachers were exaggerating the numbers and that regular teachers were deputed as substitutes in all the affected schools. They said a few schools in Palamu and Garwah districts might have been affected due to a dearth of teachers.
The para-teachers went on strike demanding regularisation of services on September 17 and thousands of schools have been locked since, they say. The strike continues and the government is yet to have a dialogue with the aggrieved ad-hoc teachers, many of who were lathi-charged outside the Raj Bhawan on Monday causing major injuries to some.
“At least 18,000 schools have remained locked since September 17. We don’t want to disturb the education of the students but the government has left us with no other option,” said Sanjay Dubey, member of the Jharkhand Para Sikshak Mahasangh – the umbrella body of the para-teachers’ union in state.
While the para-teachers’ association claims that all 72,000 para-teachers are on strike, state school education and literacy secretary Aradhana Patnaik said only 15,000 were on strike and the remaining 57,000 were working. “No schools have been affected. We have deputed regular teachers in all the schools where para-teachers have gone on strike and all the schools are running smoothly,” she said.
On Tuesday, the on-strike para teachers also burnt effigies of the state government in different parts of Jharkhand as a mark of protest against the lathicharge on Monday. The teachers also gheraoed the Jharkhand Education Project Council (JEPC) building in Ranchi.
A faction of the para-teachers’ association which includes only the Jharkhand Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) pass teachers also extended their support to the strike and may suspend all works from Wednesday, said Mohan Mandal -- a member of JTET Pass Para Sikshak Sangh. “At least 1,000 schools where JTET-pass para-teachers teach would also be locked up soon,” he said.
There are around 40,000 government schools in Jharkhand and over 50 lakh students. The education here has been marred on several occasions in the past by frequent protests and the government should try and solve this problem once and for all, said activists.
“You cannot deal with regular protests and think of quality education at the same time. This issue needs to be addressed as early as possible for the betterment of the students,” said Anup Horey, member of Plan India NGO.
The para-teachers were first appointed on honorarium basis as Siksha Mitras (education friends) under the Centre’s Sarva Siksha Abhiyan in 2002. For the past one decade, the teachers have gone on strike at least six times.