Over 200 teacher representatives from the state will stage a demonstration on October 26 outside the Education Commissionerate at Bal Bharati to oppose the Maharashtra School Education and Sports Department’s decision to appoint expert but unpaid voluntary instructors to guide high school students in the disciplines of arts, sports and work education.
A Government Resolution (GR) was issued by the state government on October 7 asking schools to fill vacancies for 5,055 instructors in 1,835 high schools with instructors who are ready to work voluntarily, without pay. The state government’s decision came after the High Court’s orders to follow the RTE guidelines, which mention the appointment of temporary instructors in high schools to enhance the learning experience of students.
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As per the GR, schools having over 100 students will require a minimum of three volunteers as instructors who will hold training sessions to enable students to choose a course wisely after their board examinations and motivate talented students to opt for sports and arts.
However, teachers say this will reduce their role and endanger the future of their profession. “They want volunteers to teach students, then what is the use of our degrees? Why is government still offering arts teacher diploma? They are ignoring us by relying on the so-called experts, but what if these experts don’t show up? Who will be responsible for the loss of students then,” asked P R Patil, head of arts teachers’ association.
“We’re not scared about our jobs. No one can remove us from our positions. But what about the future of our profession? If the government wants overall development of a student, it should work hard on improving the quality of teachers,” Patil said.
Mahesh Palkar, Deputy Director of Education, said, “The decision has been taken following the HC order. A petition was filed a few years ago urging implementation of RTE guidelines. The court, at that time, had ordered to hire the instructors. As there was no response from the schools, the petitioners again went to the court saying this was contempt of court.”
According to Palkar, the GR doesn’t force “free service” on the instructors, but says that unpaid work will be appreciated like CSR. “The instructor can be paid anything starting from Rs 50,” he said.
Arguing that even daily wage labourers don’t work at Rs 50 anymore, Sharadchandra Dharurkar, head of sports teachers association, said, “The government must carry out a survey to find out how many people are interested in doing voluntary work and for how long. It is playing with the future of over 75,000 students. On the one hand, the government says it wants to push sports activities by building stadiums, on the other hand, they’re putting their future at stake. Being an expert in the field and teaching are two different things. Doesn’t our experience in teaching, assessing the students count? By taking this step, the government is killing the aspirations of potential teachers,” Dharurkar said. He said that if the demands of the teachers were not met, schools would remain shut after Diwali vacations. “We are protesting by wearing black armbands. We won’t let schools open if the government insists on these appointments. There are 217 schools in Pune which could be affected by the protest while Mumbai and Thane have 329 and 259 schools respectively,” Dharurkar said.