Nisar Ahmad Dar wants to marry but his salary is coming in the way. A postgraduate in economics with a bachelors in education,Dar teaches at Government Girls Middle School in Mohanpora village of Budgam in central Kashmir. His qualifications are on a par and,in some cases,even better than his fellow teachers. But in a whole year,he makes less than what his colleagues do in a month.
Dar,27,is a Rehbar-e-Taleem (ReT) and is paid just Rs 1,500 a month by the government. I dread to think of marriage. It is not possible at least for another three years, he says. It is difficult to survive on this meagre salary. Even today,I am dependent on my father for my daily needs. How will I marry in these circumstances?
The scheme Rehbar-e-Taleem,a name given to teachers appointed on a temporary basis for five years,was introduced by the state government in 2000. When the unemployment numbers went up,the government came up with the idea of Rehbar-e-Taleem to offer some relief to the angry youth of the state. This experiment was later replicated in other departments too. Today,the state has Rehbar-e-Sehat in the health department,Rehbar-e-Zirat in agriculture and Rehbar-e-Taleem in Education. In ReT,the teachers are paid a consolidated pay for five years without the benefits enjoyed by government employees. And after serving for five years,they are made permanent and their salary brought on a par with that of regular teachers.
Born into a middle-class family at Mohanpora,Dar studied at a reputed private school in his town. For higher education,he shifted to Srinagar and completed his Bachelors in Science from Amar Singh College. In 2008,he did his postgraduation in economics from the University of Kashmir. He also has a bachelors degree in education. After passing out from the university,he applied for many jobs,before a post of Rehbar-e-Taleem was advertised in his village. Without a job in hand,Dar was hard pressed and applied for the post with a hope that he would become a permanent teacher after five years. In 2009,Dar was selected for the post but as he joined the school,a new reality dawned on himhe may have equal or better qualification than his colleagues but he is not like them. His salary,and not his qualification,determined his place in the school.
Everyone looks down upon us…the teachers,the clerical staff. When students see this behaviour,they also stop respecting us, Dar says. When we go to the clerical staff for some clarification about our salaries,they behave as if we are beggars. It hurts.
Kashmir has more than 30,000 ReT teachers working in thousands of schools,especially in remote villages of the Valley. Some of them have to walk more than 10 km to reach their schools. But the government has failed to acknowledge their work. In fact,the government has failed even to keep its own promises. The government had announced an increase in our salary from Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000. But they have failed to do it, says Dar.
With inflation in the prices of essential commodities and no increase in their salary,these teachers are finding it hard to survive. I have to chip in Rs 200 towards tea expenses at school. I am left with just Rs 1,300,and if I go to the market to buy shoes,it doesnt cost less than Rs 1,500, Dar says. And like the regular teachers,we cant afford to buy new clothes every month. Thats another reason for people to look down upon us. Even labourers earn more than us. There is only one hope that keeps these teachers teachingthat one day they will be on a par with the regular teachers. We are like fish out of water, says Dar. To keep us going,the government makes promises. But it is the promise of regularisation that keeps us motivated.
It is this hope that kept Riyaz-ul-Hassan also motivated. Riyaz was appointed as a ReT in 2003 and after serving on consolidated pay for five years,he was regularised in 2009. Pursuing his doctorate in Kashmiri,Riyaz has also qualified the National Eligibility Test conducted by the University Grants Commission. He is now posted at the Government School at Gulshanabad in Hajin town. We were only two teachers at the school. Both of us were ReTs, he says. The school was set up only that year. We worked hard to establish it. Our work has paid off.
Like Riyaz,there are many other success stories of ReTs. A postgraduate in science,Ruheed Gul Baldevs hard work was recognised by the department soon after his appointment as ReT. He was elevated to District Resource Person,training even the regular teachers of Anantnag district in south Kashmir.
He,however,continued to get paid Rs 1,500 as salary. Baldev has now been regularised but for those who have to wait for years for regularisation,the agony continues.