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High time for that roll call

Delhi University teachers have been asked to sign an attendance register. And why not?

india Updated: Oct 03, 2010 22:59 IST

Most of us would agree that there is a link between accountability and performance. And, therefore, no matter which sector we work in, signing an attendance register or putting a thumb on a biometric sensor is an accepted norm. However, the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) has a different take on the issue. They say that their job is not like that of “a daily wager’s” and, therefore, they cannot accept an attendance system. We don’t buy this argument.

This manufactured ‘controversy’ (which should have been nothing more than a standard human resource operation) has now taken an ugly turn with the teachers refusing to budge from their stated position and Delhi University Vice-Chancellor issuing orders that no salaries will be released until they fall in line and sign the registers. As in all such cases, the genesis of the present fight, however, lies somewhere else. The DUTA is bitterly opposed to the present vice-chancellor and his supposed “strong-arm tactics” of pushing through syllabi changes (“dilution”) and clinging on to his position (“illegal occupant”) when his term has ended. While the DUTA says that changes in the syllabi were done without their consent, principals of Delhi University colleges feel that the introduction of a semester system has irked the teachers because such a system means a six-month evaluation of students’ as well as teachers’ performance.

According to some principals, more than 20 per cent of the teachers in co-educational colleges and 10 per cent in girls’ colleges don’t take classes regularly. In the absence of a proper mechanism, it is impossible to keep track of attendance and discipline the truant teachers. The DU teachers, however, are not the only ones opposing such a system. Recently, Patna University teachers also protested against a similar effort to check teachers’ absenteeism. Panjab University teachers ‘rejected outright’ a system for students to evaluate teachers and the facility of online checking of attendance.

Delhi University, an 88-year-old institution, is one of the premier universities of the country. On an average, a DU teacher earns between R90,000 to R1 lakh per month. So will it be wrong to say that it is the right of every student and taxpayer to insist on accountability? The ‘guru-shishya parampara’ model is all very fine, but teaching, like any other vocation, is a professional service. So while teachers must get salary commensurate to their abilities, they should be totally fine about clocking in and clocking out like the rest of us. As the two warring sides gird up for the next round, there is, at least, unanimity on one score: they want Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal to step in. That makes eminent sense.

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