Teachers raise a stink over state order to stop people from open defecation
The teachers’ job is to prevent people from defecating in the open and convince them to abandon the unhygienic practice. Their toilet duty is early in the morning and evenings.india Updated: Nov 21, 2017 19:06 IST
Schoolteachers in Bihar have the additional duty of making the rounds in urban wards and panchayat committees of Muzaffarpur and Aurangabad to stop people from defecating in the open.
So says a Bihar government order issued recently.
The teachers’ job is to prevent people from defecating in the open and convince them to abandon the unhygienic practice. Their toilet duty is early in the morning and evenings.
According to teachers, they have been asked to take pictures on mobiles to shame the offenders.
The teachers were deployed as the government is pushing to meet the December 31 deadline to make Aurangabad “open defecation free”.
The administration created committees with four to five teachers in each of them to monitor the mission’s progress. Similar committees are planned in other districts to create awareness.
The additional duty has put teachers of Bihar’s understaffed schools in a spot as the Class 10 and 12 finals will start in January and registration of students for these exams is not yet complete.
“Imagine how many government work we are expected to do, except teaching? The latest orders for us to check open defecation has been sent to us with copies to DM, DDC, SDO, BDO and even local police stations,” said a teacher of a secondary school in Aurangabad, who did not wish to be named.
Another teacher cited orders linked to social reforms of chief minister Nitish Kumar such as campaign against alcohol, child marriage and dowry that they are supposed to carry out.
“These include organising a lot of activities like rallies, competitions ... We are yet to see any directive for completion of syllabus and how it should be done, as the entire focus is on just conducting exams,” he said.
The Bihar secondary teachers’ association has written to the chief minister, urging him not to add to the long list of non-academic work that they are supposed to do. It cited Union human resource minister Prakash Javadekar speech in the Rajya Sabha about teachers being overburden with non-teaching duties.
“At present, sent-up exams are on. Teachers and headmasters are struggling with registration of students for board exams after the agency doing it left it midway. As a result, education has stopped in schools, but the authorities keep coming up with one order after another. The latest is the insulting duty of keeping tabs on villagers going out for defecation,” association general secretary and former MP Shatrughan Prasad Singh said.
He requested the chief minister to withdraw the order. Appreciating the government’s cleanliness drive, he said expecting teachers to get involved from dawn to dusk to monitor open defecation was asking for too much.
“Teachers are engaged in a host of activities such as cattle census, general census, election duties, pulse polio campaign, verification of family records, and organising social campaigns. When the results suffer, they are made the scapegoats,” he said, citing the Bihar government order to take action against teachers of schools that performed poorly in the 2016 board exams.
Bihar education minister Krishna Nandan Prasad Verma said ‘Swachchta Abiyaan’ was a national programme and teachers being intellectuals could convince people better without affecting their normal work. “It will not come in the way of teaching,” he added.
Earlier this year, acting on recommendations of a group of secretaries appointed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Centre had instructed the states to ensure teachers were not assigned any non-academic work and allowed to concentrate on teaching.
According to the right to education act, 2019, the teachers can be deployed only on three duties – census, disaster management and election, that too only on polling and counting days. The courts have ruled that teachers should not be used even for mid-day meal and other non-academic activities.
In 2016, the Supreme Court said engaging teachers in non-academic work was against the Constitution. It even objected to deputation of teachers on non-academic posts. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) also issued a similar order for its schools.
First Published: Nov 21, 2017 18:32 IST