The Jharkhand government is facing its own Frankenstein in the form of 80,000 ad hoc teachers frequently protesting for job regularisation, whose absence is now hitting studies in the state schools, according to education experts.
These teachers are protesting outside the chief minister’s residence in Ranchi since Saturday and have decided to continue the protest till the government takes its call.
They contend that since they spend full teaching hours in schools and do all that a regular teacher does, they too are entitled to full salary and job regularization. But, government sources say this will drain the state exchequer and has to be addressed in a judicious manner.
There are about 45,680 schools in the state and 52,30,112 children in these schools whose fate is at stake with the teachers’ strike. Chief minister Raghubar Das is expected to take his call on the issue on Wednesday.
But, how the number of ad hoc teachers swelled to 80,000?
In 2002, para teachers (ad hoc teachers) were initially employed under the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan scheme of the centre as Siksha Mitra (teacher friend). They are a substitute for regular government school teachers and had to be recruited as Jharkhand faced an acute shortage of teachers after it was separated from Bihar, said Prakash Pandey, a para teacher from Hazaribagh who joined the part time job in 2002.
“The minimum qualification to become a para teacher back then was matriculation. Later it was changed to Class 12 pass,” Pandey said.
These youths, mostly undergraduate, were given the job of teaching at local schools and their payments were made from the SSA funds. The starting salary was Rs 1000 per month, which after regular protests, went up to 6000 per month.
“We were given the job by local leaders and authorities. They never asked us to furnish any certificate,” said Vinay Kumar, another ad hoc teacher who joined in 2005.
“We started as part time workers, but were soon made to work full time due to dearth of teachers,” he said. While politicians strengthened their vote bank by employing the unemployed youths of rural areas as para teachers, the past governments too used the para teachers as a shield to hide their failure in recruiting qualified teachers, education activists said, adding this was the main reason why the quality of teachers and education deteriorated in the state schools. Gradually, this unchecked hiring raised their numbers to 80,000 and now they are demanding higher pay and job regularisation.
In 2012, all the 80,000 para teachers had gone on a strike for at least three months crippling education in at least 10,000 schools run solely by para teachers back then. In 2013, at least 50,000 para teachers went on a pen-down strike.
The frequent protests have had their repercussions on the students. According to the findings of the Annual Survey of Education Report (ASER), 2014, 0.6% of Class 8 students cannot recognise single digit numbers here, while their counterparts from private schools solve equations with variables and constants. Their English is worse as 1% of class 8 students here cannot recognise a single letter of the Alphabet, the survey report says.
According to a report by the District Institute of Education Training (DIET), the Pupil Teacher Ratio in Jharkhand is 1:43 (One teacher per 43 students) compared to the national ratio of 1:30. The Right to Education Act mandates that schools should have a teacher-pupil ratio of 1:30 at the primary level and 1:35 at the upper primary level.
Although the state took initiatives to recruit para teachers through Teachers Eligibility Test (TET), even 25% of them could not qualify despite reservations.
The state too has been at fault, hit by anomalies in recruitment for years. To recruit teachers for government schools of the state, TET was initially supposed to be organised by Jharkhand Public Service Commission in 2008 but was cancelled several times due to alleged anomalies in the JPEC. Finally, Jharkhand Academic Council conducted the examination on April 26, 2013 the results for which were announced on May 28, 2013 in which around 43,000 aspirants qualified.
Vacancies vs Strength
There are about 33,000 vacancies for teachers in the state and at least 5000 recruitments have been made on the basis of the TET conducted in 2013, claim HRD officials.
“We had recruited 5500 teachers in January, 3000 of them were para teachers. In the next recruitment session for 15,000 vacancies, at least 7000 would be para teachers,”said state HRD secretary, Aradhna Patnaik.