“Your responsibility goes beyond your salary. You have a moral responsibility to contribute and build society as desired. We are basically the bricks that build the walls of society,” an advisor in Nagaland Government told educators recently.
Elsewhere, the teachers are often extolled as the “backbone of society” and play active role in shaping the character of students to become ideal citizens. “The best and brightest people in the society are selected for the teaching profession,” Nagaland titular head of the state said in his glowing tribute to teachers last year.
Such eloquent platitudes, however, are belied by ground realities as such magnanimous words are not always translated into action. Agitation and stir by one group of teachers or other, thus, has become a regular state of affair. The main grievance often is unpaid salary. Often teachers complain whether the profession they chose was a ‘right decision.’
Sections of Sarva Shiksa Abhiyan (SSA) teachers of the state are currently agitating, among others, for regularization of jobs and enhancement of their salaries. Such issues perennially crop up with the government placating agitating associations through temporary assurance before the next cycle begins.
Concurrently, the issue of providing quality education is often put into context with both sides arguing for the same in different contexts, but remaining elusive so far.
Ironically, the pursuit of quality education becomes futile if the mechanisms to ensure such outcome are not ensured. Regular payment of salary being one of the most pertinent needs – motivation and dedication are secondary when the survival and livelihood are at stake.
Messing the whole affairs is the politics, an abyss from which it is difficult to come out. Over the years, the education sector has become a favorite haunting ground for political appointees.
The profession is also undermined with many teachers practicing the employment of proxies. Time and again, the concerned department as well as the government categorically assure to “crack the whip” on substitute teachers and ban all contractual/ backdoor appointments. Follow-up action, if any, are not known or made public.
Besides, while demanding deserved remuneration for their services, the multiple teachers’ associations must take action against such malpractice to salvage the credibility of their profession.
In the private sector, which caters to most of the students, the remuneration are highly skewed – most of them overworked but underpaid. It applies to higher education and lower level education as well. For many, thus, it is a temporary sojourn before a next big step – a job in government sector. Thus, attrition rates in such institutions remain high affecting the students. Nagas’ fixation with government job can also be attributed to this and the government assistance and intervention is needed to correct the anomalies.
If the desire to improve the education sector is coming from both sides, corrective measures to ensure quality education are also collective responsibility.
Each side must ensure that the commitments are honored at all levels and some concrete action is demonstrated not mere charade and lip-servicing.
The first crucial step for the government is to ensure timely provision of the salaries, while teachers should stop outsourcing their jobs.