Teachers of government schools in Ludhiana district are opposing the newly introduced system of updating daily attendance and status of midday meal served to students through short message service (SMS) to the district administration.
After Roopnagar district, the system was replicated in Ludhiana on the orders of Deputy Commissioner Rajat Aggarwal. But various teachers’ unions have strongly opposed it and decided to take up the matter with Education Minister Daljeet Singh Cheema.
As per the system, whose software has been developed by the National Informatics Centre, the teachers have to send an SMS confirming their attendance daily through registered mobile numbers. Also, the heads in schools looking after midday meal system have to send an SMS daily informing about the number of students present and if food has been served to them or not.
The system was the initiative of former Roopnagar deputy commissioner Pardeep Aggarwal. The Ludhiana district administration decided to replicate the same and increase transparency in attendance and midday meal system.
Talking to The Indian Express, Isha Kalia, Mansa additional deputy commissioner and former Ludhiana ADC development, said, “As per the system, teacher’s attendance and midday meal status have to be updated through SMS. Every teacher has to send an SMS confirming if he/she is present, on leave, half day through SMS format, and the data will be stored in software developed by NIC. We are planning to implement the same in Mansa now.”
“The biggest advantage of the system is that we can verify and cross-check complaints of midday meal with SMSes sent by schools. For example, if a school says that students were given food but we come to know that ration was over and we were not informed, then the school can be held responsible,” she added.
However, the teachers complain that the system has no relevance as some of them do not know how to send an SMS and in some schools there is a network problem. The teachers under the banner of Sanjha Morcha Adhyapak Union protested in front of the DC office in Ludhiana on Tuesday.
Daljit Singh from Democratic Teachers’ Front said, “Our attendance is already marked two times, first on register manually and then online which is sent to the education department. This new SMS system is only an added burden. Some teachers who are going to retire do not even know how to SMS. Also, if a teacher forgets mobile phone or it is lost, he or she will be marked absent for the day. SMS can be sent only through registered mobile number which is also a risky matter.”
“We met ADC Ludhiana but he refused to listen to our points. He asked us to give a list of schools where the network problem exists. The system was not successful in Ropar where it was started,” said Manraj from Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan Teachers’ Union. “Moreover, why extra vigil only for teachers and not for other employees of the district administration?”
The teachers said if the system was to be implemented, it should be implemented throughout Punjab, not Ludhiana alone.
Some schools in Ludhiana have started sending SMSes. A teacher requesting anonymity said, “We are with no union and have started sending SMSes. There is no issue in sending one SMS on a given number. It is a simple process.”
When contacted, Gurjot Singh, district education officer, elementary Ludhiana, said,”The system has started and we are working to make it successful. Around 40% teachers are sending SMS now.”
Supreet Singh Gulati, Ludhiana additional deputy commissioner, said, “The SMS system will continue to be implemented in the district.”