150 days without salary

Teachers’ lives caught in a cycle of debt & loan

Y Merina Chishi
Dimapur | September 24  

Every morning Vina wakes up thinking about the same thing: will she get her salary today? With debts and loans mounting, this government school teacher and mother of two can no longer bear the thought of passing through another day without her salary. It has been precisely four and a half months since she was last paid.  

Vina was appointed under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) in 2013 as a Graduate Teacher. Currently posted in a remote area of Zunheboto district, she is faced with numerous hardships. 

“My family lives in a rented house in Dimapur and I also rent a house in my place of posting. I have my children to take care of and so many other social obligations. I cannot take it anymore,” she cries out in frustration.  

Her breaking point came in the month of February when she had to undergo a C-section for delivery of her second child. “I was due at that point when there was literally no money in the house. I had to borrow from a cousin to pay for my delivery and other medical expenses,” she says.  

Vina’s colleague and friend Tia points out that she has not given tithes to church for several months. “How can I give tithes with borrowed money?” she says. Eldest among seven children, she shares the responsibility with her parents in taking care of her siblings. And not having been paid for months, she has not been contributing her share. But like all her other colleagues, she too does not rest hope on the government’s assurances. On most occasions, these teachers are not paid their full due which further aggravates their problems.  

Stories of teachers struggling to make ends meet are spread all across Nagaland. “It is an irony that teachers who are made responsible for shaping children’s lives are struggling to pay their own children’s school fees,” says Avilu, another teacher in Phek. Just recently, she had to borrow money to pay her son’s school fee. “Since teachers are paid decent salary people think we live very comfortable lives. The reality is that we are living on borrowed money.” In the past, she has had to borrow money to get her children vaccinated.  

Her colleague Vibu adds: “I am able to run my kitchen with my husband’s salary. A lot of people do not have that privilege.” These teachers are caught in a cycle of debt. From taking extra tuitions to selling second-hand clothes, they do everything to supplement their income. They are unable to meet even their basic needs and ration - everything from groceries to toiletries. They are routinely in dire straits but refrain from taking too many loans in case they fail to pay back in time.  

*All names have been changed