'Just Let Us Teach': Why Govt School Teachers Are Tired of Doing Everything
"We want respect – and we want to be able to do the work we were employed for – teaching," a teacher said.
"We don't get compensation for any of the extra work that we do," laments Puja Singh, an English teacher at a government school in Delhi. "For election duty, we earn a meagre amount, but that can be considered as conveyance charges."
Why are government school teachers in India trained to teach, but expected to do all kinds of work?
Last month, the Delhi government released a notice deploying at least 85 government school teachers for COVID duty at the capital's Indira Gandhi International Airport from 31 December to 15 January.
The directions were later withdrawn after the Government School Teachers Association (GSTA) expressed dissatisfaction over the same.
This is just one example. Teachers have been made to do miscellaneous work during the COVID-19 pandemic as well.
"Many teachers were deployed on traffic signals to impose fines on people not following the lockdown norms. Similarly, many of us were deployed to issue challans to factories that remained open despite the lockdown. We were also given ration distribution duties, COVID vaccination centre duties, and had assisted people travelling from Delhi to other states to get into their buses," Ajay Veer Yadav, the general secretary of the GSTA, tells The Quint.
"But we don't just need compensation. We want respect and we want to be able to do the work that we were employed for – teaching," he adds.
'Affects Our Mental Health'
India has 10.22 lakh government schools – employing around 48.82 lakh teachers.
Anand Singh, who is a primary school teacher and the president of the Uttar Pradesh Primary School Teachers' Association in Chandauli district, claims that one of his colleagues, Rajkumar, allegedly died of a brain hemorrhage due to work pressure in 2021.
"Government school teachers in Uttar Pradesh have a lot of work, like taking care of students, mid-day meals, administrative work of the school, implementing policies of the government, election duty, census duty, etc. Because of so much work, teachers are always burdened," he adds.
"Rajkumar was deployed for election duty in the 2021 panchayat polls during the second wave of COVID. He did not want to do it. Many other teachers were also forced to work during the panchayat polls. Many of them lost their lives due to COVID," Singh alleged.
Uttar Pradesh Prathamik Shikshak Sangh – a teachers' association – released data in May 2021, claiming that 1,621 teachers died due to COVID in the state during the panchayat election duty.
Contrary to the data presented by the teachers' association, the UP government claimed that only three teachers died due to COVID during the polls.
However, due to the consistent efforts of the teachers' association, the families of some of the deceased teachers were given compensation by the state government.
'Can't Eat or Sleep'
A study titled, 'Adversarial Parental Perceptions About Government Schools in Ahmedabad', conducted in 2017 by researchers at IIM Ahmedabad, mentioned two government schools teachers in Ahmedabad in Gujarat, who discussed "how they found it difficult to eat and sleep during election duty because there was tremendous pressure on them that nothing goes wrong," reported The Wire.
The study, which was authored by professors Ankur Sarin and Nisha Vernekar, also gave examples of teachers and principals who complained about the ad hoc nature of this extra administrative work.
One teacher said that all teachers in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) were made part of a WhatsApp group where they might receive a message at any time of the day or night from people of the administration, asking them to volunteer for administrative work. Often, the work they were called away for had nothing to do with education, schooling, or even policy.
Puja Singh, too, who was forced to work during the pandemic, alleges her mother contracted COVID from her, which ended up becoming the cause of her death.
"All teachers were called to schools to conduct online classes as soon as the lockdown was lifted. So, we were all exposed to the infection. I think my mother, who died of COVID last year, contracted the infection from me," she said.
But why are they denied vacations during the stipulated period? According to Ajay Veer Yadav, school staff is called 'vacation staff', because they get 'vacations' every year.
"We get the vacations to get better at the disciplines we teach. But there have been multiple instances when we have been called to do administrative duties like census, poll duty, etc, during our vacations," he says.
How This Affects Education
Teachers are burdened with so much administrative work that it eventually impacts the quality of education being imparted in their own schools.
Anand Singh says that teachers in our government schools have a good command over their subjects and are also trained very well. "But when you deploy us for work in the revenue department or the health department or the food department, we might not be able to attend to our own students."
Puja Singh adds that "a lot of teachers in the Delhi government's schools also do the school's administrative work."
Election booths placed at government schools also lead to the closing of the schools for a few days – sometimes for over a week.
"After all this work, we are then asked to complete the syllabus on time and also manage to get good results," Puja claims.
For example, the Delhi Municipal Corporation elections were held on 4 December, and pre-boards for classes 10 and 12 were scheduled to begin on 15 December. "How are we supposed to complete the syllabus and get good results in such a short time?" Puja asks.
A Boon for Private Schools
All this extra duty, which adversely affects the education in government schools, eventually adds up to the perception that government schools do not provide good education.
"Private schools are the ones who benefit the most from it," Anand Singh claims. He adds that people will want to get their child admitted to a private school because of this. "But not everyone can afford to enroll their child in private schools because of their exorbitant fee," he says.
Private schools teachers are not deployed for this extra administrative work; therefore, they get the time to focus on their students, he says.
"I assure you that government schools in India can impart the best quality of education if the administration just let us teach," Singh adds.
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