The Gujarat education department has ordered all districts to collect information on government school teachers who have been on leave for more than one year.
The exercise is aimed at exposing the lack of regulation on teachers’ absenteeism from government schools. Parents have, for some time been, citing teachers’ long absence from schools as on of the major reasons for the poor results of government schools.
The matter of teachers’ long absence was first raised by Gujarat Primary Teachers’ Association during the executive committee meeting of the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) held on November 29 in Gandhinagar.
Following this, the Director Primary Education M I Joshi November 30 issued a circular to all District Primary Education Officers (DPEOs) and administrative officers (AO) seeking information from across the state before December 6.
For years, many teaching posts in remote districts of Kutch, Panchmahal and Banaskantha have remained vacant. To tackle the issue of vacant teaching posts, the Gujarat government, in the past, had made online applications for transfers mandatory in order to ward off “pressures” for preferred locations. The system sought to introduce transparency. However, the government was flooded with applicants seeking postings to their home districts. In spite of resorting to biometric attendance system for teachers, the state Education Department struggles to check the alarming absenteeism of teachers. While the government announces one scheme after another to improve education standards and check drop-out rates, this is one area where the government needs to act.
“It has been brought to the notice that teachers in several districts have remained absent for a long time. Because of this, it has adverse effects on students’ education as the position cannot be filled by either a transfer or new appointment. This is a very serious issue. So, compile the information of all those teachers in your district who are absent for more than a year before December 6,” the circular stated.
As per the rules, a new teacher cannot be appointed or the teacher cannot be transferred till the teacher is on leave, as in the teacher’s absence the post is not vacant.
“There are teachers, around 10 in Jamnagar alone like one in Lalpur taluka and the other in Jamnagar, where teachers have been absent for the last three to four years. It has been a long time since they left for abroad,” said Digvijaysinh Jadeja, president of Gujarat Primary Teachers’ Association, who had raised the issue at the meeting.
Notices have been served to some of the teachers whose absence was brought to the notice of their respective district education officers.
According to rules, a notice seeking an explanation for the absence of a teacher is served thrice before passing an order of either his suspension or dismissal.
This is the first time that such a data collection drive is taking place in the state.
“There is no preliminary data of such teachers since we have never collected one before. This is the first time. We want to verify the claims made by the association regarding teachers’ long absence,” director of Primary Education M I Joshi said.
There are around 1.90 lakh government primary school teachers in the state, constituting a 60:40 ratio of female and male teachers.
With a larger proportion of women teachers, their male counterparts have been complaining of teaching hours being affected as female teachers also avail long maternity leaves. This was also reflected in the draft National Education
Policy (NEP) report which was prepared by the state education department in 2015 and submitted to the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD).
Among major reasons for poor education quality, the report cited ‘majority percentage of female teachers in government schools result in higher irregular classes as they go on long maternity leave and no arrangement for reserved faculty’.