We shape the new generation but our own future is uncertain
Guest teachers working in schools under the government of the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi have been agitating for the past several years, for regular appointments and better salaries and working conditions. At present, there are more than 20,000 guest teachers working in different government schools all over the NCT of Delhi. Successive governments have turned a deaf ear to their plight and their just demands. Mazdoor Ekta Lehar spoke to Dr. Rachna who has served as a post-graduate guest teacher in the NCT of Delhi for more than 6 years and has played a leading role in the struggle of the guest teachers. We reproduce below excerpts of the interview.
MEL: What are the main demands that the guest teachers have been agitating for?
Dr Rachna: The foremost demand of the guest teachers is for appointment as regular teachers. Many of us, at the PGT (post graduate teacher) level, as well as TGT (trained graduate teacher) and PRT (primary teacher) levels, have remained guest teachers for nearly 10 years. During this time, the teachers would have applied several times for regular posts as advertised by the Education Department of the NCT of Delhi (Edudel). But the regular posts advertised have been very few and often after 4-5 years gap. So, many of us end up having crossed the age limit by the time we are able to apply for a regular post, in our specific area of specialization. The age limit to apply for a regular teacher's post is 36 years for PGTs and 32-42 years (depending on the subject area) for TGTs.
The other important demands we have been agitating for are wages and working conditions, at par with regular teachers.
MEL: How are guest teachers appointed in government schools in Delhi?
Dr Rachna: Recruitment of teachers in government schools in Delhi is done through the Department of Education of Delhi. After clearing the examination for the particular teacher’s post, the candidate may be appointed as a regular teacher or a guest teacher, in any of the schools in the region, depending on the requirement of the school. For example, in the school where I had been working, out of a total strength of 120 teachers, there were 70 regular teachers and 50 guest teachers. And this is a Senior Secondary School, with classes 6-12.
Even if you satisfy all the requirements for being appointed as a regular teacher, you may be appointed as a guest teacher. If you have been working as a guest teacher for some years in a particular school, and subsequently a regular teacher is appointed for that post, you will be asked to leave the job. The school or the Department of Education are under no compulsion to appoint you as a regular teacher even though you have been teaching there as a guest teacher for some years before this. They are not bound to give you another appointment as a guest teacher in the same or another school. You have to use your contacts and search for another school which may require the services of a guest teacher in your subject area and then apply there.
MEL: What are the main problems that guest teachers face in terms of salaries and working conditions?
Dr Rachna: Guest teachers are not paid according to the official salary grades fixed by the government. Instead, they are paid daily wages. These are not revised regularly; the last salary revision was three years ago.
At this time, a guest PGT receives Rs. 1442 per day, a TGT Rs.1403 per day and a PRT Rs.1364 per day.
Guest teachers are not paid for Sundays or school holidays. They are not paid any salary if they take leave. They do not receive paid maternity leave. If another guest teacher is appointed to replace the teacher on maternity leave, then she may risk losing her job when she comes back. The school authorities assign duties for examinations etc. to the guest teachers as and when required, so if they are not called for duty on certain days, then they do not receive any salary for those days. All this taken together means that a guest teacher receives a remuneration that amounts to less than 50% of that of a regular teacher, for teaching the same classes and performing the same duties in the school.
Guest teachers are required to be present during the entire school working hours and to work overtime without additional compensation. They have to perform all the duties expected of regular teachers, including taking charge of classes, sports and cultural activities, Board Examination duties, attending seminars and workshops, as well as teaching at all levels and subjects different from the teacher’s area of specialization. They have to face grossly insulting and discriminatory behavior at the hands of the school authorities, who often treat them like slaves.
MEL: How do you plan to take the struggle forward?
Dr Rachna: The biggest challenge before us is to unite the guest teachers and mobilise them to come out in struggle for our rights. Job insecurity is very high in our society today, so guest teachers are often forced to accept the unjust conditions of work, in order to have a livelihood. Guest teachers are penalized for raising their voice. We have faced lathi charge by the police and security forces. We have had to deal with attempts by the state and corporate media, to spread lies to discredit our struggle.
We have to continuously highlight our conditions and the injustice we face in this system, and try to mobilise support for our struggle from the families of the students and all other sections of the working people. Governments have changed but all of them have adopted the same heartless attitude towards the plight of the guest teachers. We will continue to mobilise more teachers and other working people in support of our struggle.
We are grateful to Mazdoor Ekta Lehar for taking up our cause and spreading the message of our struggle among all other sections of the working people. Activists of MEL have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us in our struggle so far, and we hope to have your support in future as well.
MEL: Thank you, Dr. Rachna, for informing our readers about the terrible injustice you face and the heavy odds against which you are resolutely carrying on your struggle. We pledge to mobilise the widest possible support for your struggle. We wish you all success in the battle for your rights.