Government schools in Punjab have been facing a shortage of 32,000 regular teachers across the state, with many primary schools being managed by contractual service-providers or volunteers hired by local panchayats.
Over 11,000 posts of regular teachers are lying vacant in primary schools. The state faces a shortage of lecturers by 39% with a few schools even having to discontinue the Class-12 commerce and science streams. Of the 12,242 posts of lecturers in the state, 4,596 are lying vacant, mainly in the subjects of maths, physics and English.
A reality check
In a random check in the nearby Rupnagar district, the constituency of education minister Daljit Singh Cheema, the senior secondary school at Nurpur Bedi was found without a lecturer each for physics, maths, English, Punjabi, Hindi and commerce. The school’s parent-teacher association (PTA) has hired a girl to teach both physics and maths on a monthly remuneration of Rs 3,000.
The senior secondary school at nearby Bajroor has been striving for getting lecturers in English, history and Punjabi to save its humanities stream for the past two years. The school had to discontinue the commerce batch last year as both posts of commerce lecturer are lying vacant, while the vocational studies courses were disbanded five years ago for the same reason.
The situation is pathetic in several primary and middle schools where educational service-providers hired on annual contractual basis at a paltry salary of Rs 7,500 per month have been running the show.
Punjab’s director public instructions (DPI), elementary education, Pankaj Sharma, acknowledged that nearly 6,000 service-providers are teaching in primary schools across the state and, thus, “decreasing the gap” against over 11,000 vacant posts. With 52,000 sanctioned posts of primary teachers, the vacancies stood at 23%.
In a glaring example of the state’s indifference, at the primary school at Nanhoti village in Rupnagar district, Hindi teacher Sandeep Kumari, who is on deputation from a nearby senior secondary school, was seen managing all five classes along with a ‘volunteer teacher’. The volunteer gets Rs 3,000 a month from the PTA funds.
Low attendance, lone teacher
The students’ strength at Nanhoti primary school declined from 93 in 2011-12 to 55 at present. The lone teacher here, with a stick in hand, struggled from one classroom to another, adjusting all five classes in two rooms. “A few wards have shifted to the nearby private schools,” she said.
At the middle school at Samundarian village, lone service-provider Jasvir Kumar runs the show with the help of a volunteer. Around 8 km away, a primary school at Baihara has mere 20 pupils, where lone service-provider Ranjit Kaur struggled to maintain the students’ strength. “I roamed in village lanes to gather the kids; you can see this girl in blue uniform was recently roped in from a private school,” she said.
All these teachers manning the schools all alone, whether service-providers or regular ones on deputation, said the families with some money preferred to take away their kids to private schools.
33,500 TET pass-outs looking for jobs
Though there are so many vacancies, around 33,500 unemployed youth in the state are awaiting jobs in the education sector after clearing the Teacher Eligibility Test (TET) in the past five years. With about 1,500 of these TET pass-outs now becoming overage, they have been holding protests along with contractual teachers as 32,000 regular posts of teachers lying vacant.
The state government, in 2013, had conducted the first-ever TET exam to comply with the Right to Education Act for a compulsory TET clearance for the job of a teacher.
Of these TET pass-outs, TET-1 category for the primary section has 10,902 aspirants, while the TET-2 category for secondary teachers, including lecturers in specific subjects, has 22,811 aspirants, as per the official data.
In 2014, the state education department had appointed about 2,500 TET pass-outs on contract at a paltry salary of Rs 6,000, with the clause that they would be regularised after three years. Since their appointment, they have been getting only Rs 6,000 with no increment.