Updated: June 19, 2021 10:26:58 am
In her journey to become an educator, Kamaljit Kaur ensured that she hit all the milestones that mattered. The 33-year-old is a double postgraduate, Elementary Teacher Training (ETT) and Nursery Teacher Training (NTT) qualified teacher. But her official status is that of an Alternative and Innovative Education (AIE) volunteer with Punjab Education Department, and her salary a meagre Rs 6,000.
“I had joined at Rs 2,500 a month, and in six years, all I get is Rs 6,000 a month. Sometimes, all these double MA degrees, diplomas. all of it feels like a farce. Rs 6,000 a month! Is this what I deserve?” says Kaur, as she protests with others like her in sweltering heat outside the Punjab Education Department building in Mohali.
She and her colleagues have been protesting at the site for the past three days.
Sitting at the dharna site with her 7-year-old son, Kaur says that her protest is not for money, but for her dignity as a teacher. She says that her husband works for the BSF and earns enough to support the family.
But there are countless others at the site for whom not being paid enough means difficulty in running their households.
For the past three days, ad hoc teachers from across Punjab under the banner of ‘Kachhe Adhyapak Union’ are on the warpath against Punjab government, protesting outside Education Department in Mohali, armed with petrol bottles and sulphas tablets. The protest represents around 10,724 teachers recruited since 2003 under several schemes — education providers, Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS), Alternative and Innovative Education (AIE), Special Trainers (STR) and Inclusive Education volunteers (IEV), who get Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 a month as salary.
Sharanjit Kaur (50), from Moga, has 18 years of experience of working as an ad hoc teacher under Employment Guarantee Scheme (EGS). She started at Rs 1,000 a month in 2003, and 18 years later, all she gets is Rs 6,000 a month. She says she has spent her entire life waiting for her job to be regularised. “Eighteen years and I am still not qualified to be regularised? I am ETT and NTT qualified. For 18 years, I have been teaching kids in Punjab government schools and all I am getting is Rs 6,000 per month. My husband is farmer. I wasn’t able to educate my children in good schools,” she says.
“Sometimes it feels so bad earning Rs 5,000-6,000 a month that we often lie that we get at least Rs 10,000 when someone asks about our salaries,” says another protesting teacher, as five of their colleagues continue to sit atop the department building with petrol bottles, threatening to immolate themselves.
“We work as much as the regularised teachers, with same working hours and work pressure, but while some of them get around Rs 70,000 a month, we get peanuts. We work as much as them, but are not given pay and respect at par with them. We want equal money and respect,” says Sonu Rani (40), an education provider earning Rs 10,000 a month. In 2003, she had joined at salary of Rs 2,500 a month and after 13 years, she now gets Rs 10,000 per month.
Veerpal Kaur, state convenor of Kachhe Adhyapak Union, says their two major demands are regularisation of jobs and till that doesn’t happen, ‘respectable’ increment in their salaries. “We want everything in written, not just spoken words…,” she says.
Their demands also include ‘priority and preference’ in recruitment of 8,393 posts of regular teachers for pre-primary section, advertised by the government. “Most of us are already having at least 18 years of experience in teaching primary kids and now for recruitment of pre-primary teachers, they are asking us to compete with fresh applicants and appear for a screening test. When we are already ETT/NTT qualified, why should we give another test? More than 85,000 applicants have already applied for those 8,393 posts. We should be given preference in this regularised hiring as we have qualification and experience both,” says Davinder Singh, also state convenor of the union.
According to a notice issued by Punjab Education Department on June 17, a written test for recruitment of 8,393 pre-primary teachers which was scheduled for June 27 has been ‘postponed till further orders’. “All of us were already ETT and BEd qualified and then government ordered that we should do NTT as well. And now when we have done NTT too, they are asking us to appear for another screening test for hiring as pre-primary teachers. We do not accept this,” said Singh.
When contacted, Vijay Inder Singla, Punjab School Education Minister, said the provision has already been made to give 10 extra marks to these volunteers who will appear for pre-primary recruitment test.“We are giving them 10 extra marks for experience and age relaxation has also been given. But no one can be hired as a teacher without clearing the written test. They wanted test to be postponed, which has been done.”
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