Categories: Editorial

Alternatives for Para Teachers

WITH Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar ruling out regularization of the services of the agitating para teachers doors have been shut for 134 teachers hired for Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Under state recruitment rules only those with a diploma or degree in education can be appointed as teachers, as the 1,490 primary school teachers employed in about 800 government schools are. In the earlier years, many of the para teachers took teachers’ training and got absorbed in government service. The agitating para teachers appeared to have not taken the trouble of getting trained and hence qualified for regular appointment as teachers, preferring to continue to work as para teachers on contract.

The government cannot relax the recruitment rules as it could open a Pandora box and possibly trigger litigation. The para teachers will now have to continue with their contractual appointment, which the government has agreed to renew so they are not unemployed. The Chief Minister has also promised to raise their salaries from the present meager amount of Rs 9,000. With the government having discontinued the provision for considering teachers who had completed 15-20 years of service to be deemed as trained teachers, the agitating para teachers are disadvantaged. Low salary levels, combined with the contractual nature of the job, have been major sources of discontent among the para teachers. Para teachers were employed purely on contract to expand the education system and improve the quality of instruction and more particularly to teach English.

With state recruitment rules being clear that only trained teachers can be appointed to the vacant posts the option before the para teachers to approach the court to get a favourable ruling is remote as the court would go by the rules. The Chief Minister has made it clear that he would go by the rules on the issue and accept any decision given by the court. The government has put forth another option before the para teachers to get into government service: they can apply for other posts and if they pass the written tests and meet the requirements they could be employed.

With the enrolment in government-run primary schools falling continuously over the last few years the government would have surplus teachers as some of the schools have to be closed down for want of adequate strength. From nearly 29,000 students in 2013-14 the enrolment in government primary schools has fallen to 23,358 in 2015-16, accounting for nearly one-fourths of the total primary school students. Each government school had an enrolment of just 29 students on an average. During the academic year 2015-16 as many as 95,555 students were enrolled in primary schools in the state. The enrolment in private schools (aided and unaided) stood at 72,197, on an average 185 in each of the 390 schools. The teacher-student ratio in government primary schools is 1:15 while in private primary schools (aided and unaided) it was more than 31. The government could face a problem of plenty in case the para teachers too were absorbed as it would be difficult to find slots to deploy them. Of the 3,775 primary school teachers in the state 3,524 are trained and only 251 are untrained. Most of the untrained teachers are employed by the managements of unaided schools.

As the agitating para teachers do not meet the educational qualifications required for their absorption in government service they could enroll themselves for either diploma or degree course in education so as to qualify for appointment as teachers. The government should facilitate their enrolment in government-run district education institutions by earmarking a certain percentage of intake capacity for them. Alternatively the para teachers could try for appointment to other posts such as lower division clerks and data operators in various government departments. With many government teachers likely to become surplus and lesser avenues for absorption of the para teachers, the government could also consider the option of deploying them in aided schools and offer them running contractual appointments with better benefits and consolidated salaries. Given the fact that almost everybody employed on contractual basis seeks regularization in government service, the state authorities should make it abundantly clear at the time of recruitment of staff on contractual basis that their appointment would not entitle them to regular service so as to avoid repeated agitations. The state has to have a clear-cut policy on regular appointment and efforts should be made to discontinue contractual appointment beyond a certain number of years.

nt

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