Three teachers who shared a flat in a Northwest Delhi village, without pay for two months, are now back in their villages in three different states, labouring to feed themselves and their families.
Surender Saini (35), Yogesh Kumar (34) and Deepak Kumar Shukla (29) all worked as guest teachers at Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya in Nithari village. However, like some 20,000 other guest teachers at these schools, they have not been paid after May 8. With the commencement of summer vacations, the education department had issued an order stating, “All guest teachers shall be paid up to May 8, 2020, and in summer vacations only if they are called for duties.”
With schools completely shut, these teachers, who are paid per day of work, have found themselves without a source of income.
Surender Saini, a TGT Hindi teacher who has cleared the CTET examination and teaches classes VI to X, had left Delhi for his village in Rajasthan’s Alwar district on March 19, after the closure of schools because of the pandemic. After returning to his village, he continued sending worksheets and videos to his students on WhatsApp, asking them to send photos of school work they had done at home.
However, soon after his salary stopped coming in, he started working at a PPE manufacturing unit in Neemrana industrial area.
“I knew a little bit of stitching and I’m learning the rest on the job. I’m being paid Rs 25 per PPE suit I make. After working from around 7.30 am to 6 pm, some days I make 8 suits, some days I make 10. If it was any other time and we would have been told that our services would not be required for some time, we could have still found some other better work. But at a time like this, this is the only work I could find which does not require too much physical labour, because I have mobility issues in my legs,” he said.
His friend Yogesh Kumar, a TGT mathematics teacher, is back at his village in Haryana’s Rewari district, working at his family’s farm. “My family has about 2 acres of land where we grow bajra. I’ve never had to leave my work in Delhi and come back to work on the farms but filling the stomach is the most important thing at this time. Remaining in Delhi was especially hard for us because the three of us used to pay rent of Rs 5,500 per month and we couldn’t shoulder that while being unemployed for two months,” he said.
In other years, summer vacations did not mean an end to all work for teachers such as Saini and Kumar. They would be called to school regularly for duty to conduct extra classes for students.
Their friend and former flatmate Deepak Kumar Shukla, a drawing teacher at the school, is also working at his family’s farm in UP’s Shahjahanpur. “We have just one acre of land where we grow sugarcane. Because we need money to even farm, a few days a week I work at other people’s farms for a few hundred rupees a day… I had enrolled my five-year-old son to a private school in Delhi and he should be in KG, but now that we’re back in the village, I’m teaching him myself,” he said.
Summer vacations end on June 30, after which schools will return to remote learning, but guest teachers are yet to receive any directions on their status. “We have been unemployed for two months. We are hoping we are given a chance to earn in July at least,” said Saini.
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