Baramulla: Since 1985, for about eight hours daily, Zeba Begum has been working as a cook, sweeper, peon and watchwoman at the Government Middle School in Adipora, Kunzar for Rs 50, which is paid either by teaching and non-teaching staff out of their own pockets or from the school fund. She calls it her salary.
A widow and mother of two unmarried daughters, Zeba said that in 1985, some elders of the village and officials of the education department approached her late husband Ghulam Ahmad Wani with the offer that if he rented out a room in his house for the primary school, one family member would be appointed as sweeper.
“We rented out the room and I was appointed as sweeper with a salary of Rs 50 per month till the regularisation of my service. The school was upgraded and shifted to a new building,” she said.
For all these years, education officers and ministers and other officials have promised her that she will be provided a permanent job.
“They have not even increased my salary not to talk of the job,” she said.
Apart from performing various jobs, she also cooks midday meals for children.
“I am old now and tired. I am working only for the sake of my two daughters,” she said, tears welling up her eyes.
Baramulla deputy chief education officer Manzoor Ahmad Wani said the education department has increased salaries of some employees who had been engaged like Zeba.
“They were at least middle or matric pass. This lady is illiterate but we have recommended her case for a raise,” he said.
Chief education officer Mushtaq Ahmad said the education department does not release funds for whatever little is paid to people like Zeba who have been engaged on ‘need basis’.
“Schools management arrange their salaries from school funds which they collect from students only. This lady has been working for so long now. Therefore I will talk to ZEO Kunzar and we will increase her salary to at least Rs 500 to Rs 1000 rupees per month,” he said.