Schoolteachers on non-academic duties in violation of RTE norms
“I am made to carry out all sorts of duties related to school funds. Thus I am unable to give sufficient teaching time to the students,” said Rajesh (name changed), a teacher from a local government school in Manimajra.
Like him, several teachers remain engaged in non-academic activities that include works related to school funds, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyam Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), thereby impacting the studies at the schools and violating Section 27 of the Right to Education Act 2009 which clearly prohibits such duties.
The Act allows only three duties - census, disaster and election duties (only on polling and counting days).
But despite orders issued by DPI and DEO in the past, the teachers are made to do such duties as the school heads don’t relegate the work to the clerks. Even if they do, the clerks mostly refuse to carry out all the duties, thereby forcing the teachers to multitask.
According to documents accessed by HT, the then DPI in 2007 had sent a letter to the then DEO, addressing concerns over the SSA works. The issue of the SSA works not being done by the ministerial staff at the schools was taken seriously by the officials. Following this, the DEO had ordered that the works related to SSA should be done by the ministerial staff and no separate staff can be provided for this purpose.
In 2013 too, the education department had asked the government school heads not to assign any office work to the teaching staff. A similar notice was sent in 2014 as well in which the heads were directed to send an undertaking that no teachers shall be assigned non-teaching duties at the expense of the period being spent for teaching purposes by December 31, 2014.
In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court (SC) in connection with a public interest litigation (PIL), the DPI (S) had stated, “The Chandigarh administration has already issued instructions whereby heads of all government schools have been directed not to assign non-teaching duties to the government teachers except as mentioned under Section 27 of the RTE Act, 2009’.
In another Bombay high court order on mid-day meal too, a clear reference to Section 27 has been made to ensure that the teachers were not engaged in the work at the cost of teaching the students.
Arvind Rana, president, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Teachers’ Welfare Association, said the education department has big plans for improving the system but it is not able to implement one such norm under Section 27 of RTE 2009 for the last five years.”
Ajay Sharma, a teacher at government school, Dhanas, threw light on a letter addressed to all education secretaries/UTs by the Union ministry of human resource development (MHRD) in 2010, in which the ministry referred to the various representations seeking clarification on the nature of duties of teachers relating to elections to the local authority/state legislatures and reiterated the importance of Section 27 of RTE. It states, “The department has also examined the judgement dated December 6, 2007 of the Supreme Court in the case of Election Commission of India vs St Mary’s School and others, after which the guidelines were issued that all other duties relating to electoral roll revisions will be undertaken on holidays or non-teaching hours and non teaching days.”
“The 2013-14 annual report of the MHRD states that schools should also be encouraged to draw the support of the community, especially mothers’ groups. Gram panchayats and school management committees may be approached to help out the school managements on a rotation basis to ensure efficient cooking, serving and cleaning operations. It has been clarified that teachers are not to be involved in cooking or its supervision in any manner,” said Ajay.
When contacted, education secretary Sarvjit Singh said, “Instructions have been issued to schools to follow the RTE Act. SSA, RMSA provide funds for administration, so involving teachers is not required. If any aberration exists somewhere, it will be checked.”