Dearth of teachers sparks political controversy
An issue purely related to the state's administrative matters is assuming political dimensions in Kashmir. The colleges in Kashmir are short of the teachers and the academic session is yet to begin even as the colleges have opened in March for the current session. Government's careless approach in this regard has invited wrath from the separatist camp. They are connecting its contours with "Israeli way of operations in Palestine".
Syed Ali Geelani, head of the hard-line faction of the Hurriyat Conference has described the drift as "deliberate" and alleged that it was an attempt to deprive the new generation of Kashmiri people from education and "keep them illiterate". "It is a serious issue. The government is acting like Israel in Palestine. It is an attempt to keep our next generation away from education", he, said in a statement on Saturday.
Geelani's assertions came in the wake of public protests by the student community in Kashmir colleges against the shortage of teacher. Hundreds of students fanned out on the streets in Kulgam in protest. There are just three teachers for 2,500 students in Kulgam Degree College. The government degree college in Tral has six teachers for 1400 students. The colleges in Srinagar and other places are also under-staff and there is a growing unrest among the student community. Students of Srinagar's Amar Singh College held protest demonstration inside college premises.
N D Wani, director college education admits that there was dearth of teachers in colleges but assures that there were no such crises. "The academic session has already begun. We have engaged around 800 teachers on contract for the current academic session", he told Hindustan Times. He said that the department has referred 800 posts of college teachers to the State Public Service Commission (PSC) for selection. "Till that process is complete, engaging teachers on contract will continue", he added.
But the contractual teachers have refused to take the classes. They are demanding implementation of court orders regarding their recruitment and pay. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court, in response to a petition by a group of contractual college teachers, has directed the state government to pay the contractual teachers at par with regular teachers doing the same work.
The practice of engaging college teachers was started in 1998. They are paid a consolidated amount of Rs.8000 and are engaged on need-bases ranging from 6 to 10 months a year. Besides "equal work, equal pay", the Court also directed the state government to continue the engagement of the petitioning college teachers till the posts are filled.
"Government is refusing to implementing the Court order", said Rafiq Ahmad, president of contractual college teachers association. "Our strike will continue till government implements court order", he said.
"We have sought some clarification from the government on the court order. We are implementing it", said N D Wani.
However, in the tussle between the government and teachers, the students are the worst sufferers. "They are wasting our precious time. We have been coming to college regularly for the past two months. Not a single class has been taken so far", says Junaid Rashid, a student of government Amar Singh College in Srinagar.