Hundreds of inclusive education resource teachers (IERT) and inclusive education volunteers who had been given the task of educating children with special needs in Punjab have left their jobs as they were not getting their salaries, depriving these kids of their right to education.
As many as 1,349 volunteers who work under the Inclusive Education for Disabled (IED) programme of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in the state have not received their salaries for the past nine months.
Nearly 700 inclusive education volunteers have left their jobs in the recent past for the same reason.
This is not for the first time that they are suffering in the absence of their only source of income. Last time, they received their salary in March this year after holding protests for nearly 13 months.
The volunteers have been demanding payment of their salary, a paltry amount of `4,500 a month. There are around 95,000 children with special needs who are studying in these resource centres across Punjab and around 13,000 children who are out of schools.
These volunteers teach the special children at resource centres from 9am to 2pm besides teaching those who are unable to come to centres by visiting their homes under the home-based education (HBE) program till 3.30pm.
There are 81 centres being run in Jalandhar district of nearly 1,000 in the state.
“Handling such kids is not a cakewalk but we get meagre a salary of `4,500 and that too we don’t receive. Last time we got our salaries in April when the Dhuri bypoll was round the corner,” rued a volunteer.
“We pin our hopes on elections, because everyone knows that during election season leaders take immediate action just to secure votes. Otherwise, they do not even bother to look at us,” said another volunteer.
Kuldeep Singh Sidhu, state president of Inclusive Education Volunteers Union, said, “We cannot even think of boycotting the classes as we do not want the helpless children to suffer more. Many teacers have left their jobs and others are suffering from depression. How one can manage with `4,500?” he said.
For lakhs of disabled children in the state, there are only 440 IERT and 1,349 IE volunteers.
Resource teachers who get a salary of `19,000 also rue the fact that they do not get salaries on time and normally there is a gap of 2-3 months.
Director general school education (DGSE) Pardeep Aggarwal said the central government had stopped sending funds for volunteers since 2014 but the Punjab government is still paying their salaries.
In 2014, Punjab Education Development Board (PEDB) released funds for their salaries but now even PEDB is short of funds.
“This year, we have asked the finance department to give their salaries. Now it is up to the department as and when they get their salaries”, he said.