Teacher Who?

Teacher Who? This is the question that requires an answer especially on an occasion such as Teachers Day and more so in the backdrop of evidence clearly pointing to teachers absconding from classrooms particularly in the less privileged schools of Nagaland. For poor school children without even the basic access to classrooms, the teacher becomes a mere metaphor. As recently as last month, a report made public by UNESCO point out that the rate of absenteeism among teachers in primary schools stands at 25 percent. While teachers’ absenteeism is a universal trait, the problem in Nagaland is a chronic one. Related to this let us look at some hard facts. A year or so ago, the local media had reported about a Government Primary School (GPS) in Kiphire district where the children of a certain village were denied schooling for about a month. The reason as it was later uncovered was not because of poverty or unwillingness of parents to send their children to school. Here, there were no teachers as a result of which the GPS had to shut down. 

The NSF had recently undertaken a thorough study of the school system focusing on the all important area of teachers’ strength in every school of Nagaland. The NSF report specifically pointed to discrepancies in terms of the total number of teachers and number of class rooms from district to district. In some cases, the difference comes to the tune of about 200 excess teachers in some districts, while some districts shows shortage of about 100 teachers. Further there are many single teacher schools in some of the districts. It is also learned that some schools do not have the mandatory extracurricular teachers such as language teacher, P.E.T, knitting instructor, carpentry instructor and drawing teachers etc. while some schools have double or even triple of such extracurricular teachers. The recent case in Zunheboto district is also a glaring example of this problem, which the NSF report had already highlighted: wherein hundreds of teachers are attached to DISs, DEOs and Directorate of School Education without any workload. All this is indicative of the fact that many of our young children do not have access to even the basic education leave alone quality. And if the government is at all serious about universalization of education and bringing quality education in the State, then it needs to undertake a comprehensive review of the teacher-school ratio and correct this defect. 

Then there are the allegations of teachers drawing salaries without attending to their duty. And we have figures which state that teacher’s salary devours the majority of the education budget. No one for that matter should be against teachers getting good pay package. But to hear that schools in small towns and villages do not have enough teachers is adding insult to injury. The principle of no work no pay should be put into practice. With Communitization, the respective Village Education Committee (VEC) should now be in a position to enforce certain discipline in this regard. Education without a doubt is the real basis for empowering individuals, a society and a nation. And to educate, the prime responsibility lies with Teachers. And therefore the teaching profession is such a noble one. There has to be better performance, which is expected from government teachers. Private school teachers complain that they work more and are paid less. Government teachers are in a better position. But they also must work harder. Hopefully, Teachers Day in Nagaland will go beyond mere symbolism and instead be a time to reflect on real issues that needs to be addressed.