SSA Teachers’ Agitation- How long can one survive?
“To go to school regularly without being paid for four months, how long can one survive?” questions Thungchamo Lotha, a Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) teacher and General Secretary, Nagaland SSA Teachers’ Association (NSSATA), Dimapur, voicing out the plight of the 2730 teachers in Nagaland appointed under SSA who have been working without being paid a salary for four months now.
NSSATA is on its first phase of a pen down, silent agitation demanding the payment of pending salaries from November 2013 to February 2014 and arrears of 2013; induction of SSA teachers (2010-2013 batch) as regular government employees; SSA teachers’ salaries to be made from the non-plan revenue expenditure and cessation of new appointments of retiring state government teachers until SSA teachers are absorbed under the said category.
“We were the first batch to be appointed through a proper channel. We sat in the written exams, gave interviews and were approved by the Cabinet, Finance Department and PNAR. The treatment that the Government is giving us is totally unfair,” says Visechol Chaya, President, NSSATA, while pointing out the irony of the functioning of the Government wherein SSA teachers are deprived of their salaries while many bogus teachers are regularized instead of being terminated.
Then, “There are cases where both the husband and wife are working as SSA teachers, who have not received their salary for four months, so one can imagine how they are surviving,” adds Thejakhrielie, an SSA teacher. As the Government of Nagaland continues to pass the buck without solving the salary crisis, the NSSATA agitation is gaining further momentum. It is important to note that the mobilization started with zero resources especially for the SSA teachers in the rural areas who are the worse-affected.
The agitation has affected students in particular but the agitating teachers maintain that their motive is not to jeopardize the welfare of the students.
“We are fed up with verbal assurances,” admits Chaya. “Our students are mostly helpers or children belonging to the weaker sections of the society; they are children who are in most need of education in our society. Like any other student, they have high dreams and ambitions. We also want to contribute and help the government promote education. We waited for a long time to start the agitation, with lots of expectation and hope for a change.”
“We have reached a point where tolerating is not going to solve the issue. This is our only source of livelihood. We are serving and earning,” says Thungchamo Lotha, adding that most people who are indifferent towards the agitation must remember the four months of hardship they faced, hoping that the Government will deliver their demands.
The current SSA agitation is perhaps a tiny drop in the mighty ocean of corruption in the education sector of the Government of Nagaland. The teachers lament that even though the long pending textbooks have arrived, it is doubtful whether it will be enough for the 11 districts. The Central government provides notebooks but these hardly reach the students. The dream of free uniforms remains half-fulfilled, with the students usually receiving a shirt and trouser while they have to spend from their own pockets for the rest.
“The government has committed the worst mistake when it comes to education in Nagaland. It starts from something as small as pencils to construction of infrastructure and from salaries to mid-day-meals,” adds Visechol, who concludes that the Government needs to correct itself where it has erred and that neither the teachers nor the students should suffer because of the Government’s mistakes.